A victim seeking an order of protection from an abusive partner no longer needs to travel to a courthouse and wait to file paperwork and see a judge. In seven New York counties, including Westchester and Manhattan, litigants can now file their petitions electronically and see a judge via Skype within an hour, with help from specially-trained advocates. The program will eventually go statewide, making New York the first in the nation with such an extensive system for seeing judges remotely. Not just anyone can use it, though. Litigants need to appear with trained advocates who have a secure email account with the court system.
Deborah Kaplan, the statewide coordinating judge for family violence cases, said the Skype program can be used in multiple ways. In Rochester, the advocacy group that’s trained to use remote access works with people who are especially vulnerable.
“Advocates are actually stationed at the hospital,” she said. “So that includes geriatric care, that includes the emergency room, OBGYN, any place where you find someone who the social worker in the hospital would speak to and believe there’s a need for an order of protection.”
Kaplan said trained advocates can also work with victims in shelters and libraries, or even police precincts.
A very interesting initiative— could technology be used similarly in other contexts, particularly where litigants are living in extremely rural/remote areas, or have reasonable fear for their lives in cases of gender based violence?