State District Judge Don Johnson is calling for the creation of a special court in East Baton Rouge Parish, a court he says he hopes will prevent some of the unceasing and heartbreaking acts of domestic violence in the community.
Johnson, who described recent domestic slayings in neighboring Ascension Parish as a “motivating reality,” said Wednesday that the proposed domestic violence court would be patterned after the 19th Judicial District drug court and a Baton Rouge City Court-run sobriety court.
Johnson said Kenner, in Jefferson Parish, established a domestic violence court in 2005.
“Our courts must change as societal issues force us to change,” Johnson, a longtime 19th Judicial District Court judge, told The Advocate during a meeting in his office. “We have to become change agents if we’re going to meet the times.”
Louisiana has led the nation since 1997 in the number of domestic homicides, according to statistics provided by the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“It’s heartbreaking. I cannot ignore it,” Johnson said.
Johnson, a criminal court judge, said he will present his idea for a domestic violence court at the next meeting of the 19th Judicial District criminal judges on May 7, and to the full court on May 21. The civil judges’ next meeting is May 22.
The judges who would choose to serve on the domestic violence court on a rotating basis would receive training in the area of domestic violence so they would be able to better recognize factors or indicators of high-risk or repetitive behavior.
Johnson said he’s of the opinion that civil protective orders are an inadequate form of protection for domestic violence victims.
A person arrested for violating a protective order is entitled to have bail set within 72 hours of the arrest.
Johnson said he would like to see that three-day window extended to allow for the alleged violator to receive a psychological or mental health evaluation.
“It’s going to cost. Somebody’s going to have to pay for that,” he cautioned.
But Johnson said the stakes are too high for money to derail such an effort.
“We need to do something. I cannot prevent a lot of this stuff. I want to prevent this from happening,” the judge said.
Gonzales has seen two domestic-related slayings this month.
On April 17, Ronald Green Sr., 44, allegedly shot and killed his estranged wife, Dewona Wright Green, 40, and their son, Ronald Green Jr., 12, before possibly jumping to his death from a Mississippi River bridge in St. John the Baptist Parish. Authorities are still searching for the man.
Dewona Green had filed three petitions in Ascension Parish for a protective order since February 2013 — the last on April 8, less than two weeks before she was fatally shot.
Ronald Green Sr. was arrested April 12 for violating that order but was released on bail.
Just days earlier in Gonzales, on April 3, Gerardo Lua, 38, allegedly fatally shot his estranged wife, Alejandra Orozco, 36, then shot himself in the head.
He remains hospitalized in Baton Rouge. Orozco had been seeking a divorce.