Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti on Thursday unveiled Los Angeles County's latest weapon against domestic violence--a program in which volunteer lawyers, working out of a police station, will help victims of stalkers, harassers and batterers file for temporary restraining orders against their tormentors.
The orders, which must be issued by a judge, prohibit aggressive and persistent estranged partners from going near the target of their harassment.
Violation of the order can lead to immediate arrest on a misdemeanor charge under a law that went into effect in January. If the order is violated again, the violator can be charged with a felony.
"We know we are not going to stop all (domestic) violence with temporary restraining orders," Garcetti said during a news conference. "But it does stop many acts of violence."
His office and the 1,400-member Women Lawyers of Los Angeles began developing the program in March, Garcetti said--three months before national attention was focused on domestic violence as a result of the O.J. Simpson case.
Simpson is charged with the June 12 murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman. Five years before those killings--to which Simpson has pleaded not guilty--the ex-football great had pleaded no contest to misdemeanor spousal battery against Nicole Simpson.
Lydia Bodin, the deputy district attorney who conceived of the restraining order program, said her office had filed 1,300 felonies and 2,500 misdemeanors in domestic violence cases in the year that ended July 31. About a quarter of those cases involved restraining orders, she said.
Under the new program, which began Thursday at the LAPD's Southwest station, 10 lawyers are available to help people process restraining orders free of charge. The program will be expanded to other stations when more volunteer lawyers are recruited, Garcetti said.