Judge Jim Roberson Honored For Work With Electronic Protective Order System
Family Justice Center of Alamance County | November 2013
Burlington, NC – Judge Jim Roberson was honored on November 20th at the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence Annual Banquet. The Men for Change Award honors men who have made significant contributions to “end and prevent violence against women, children and families.” Judge Jim, as he is affectionately known, was recognized for his critical role in the implementation of a system that insures the safety of victims through the use of technology that allows the user to file for a temporary protective order while remaining at the Family Justice Center.
“The recently introduced Domestic Violence Electronic Protective Order System instituted in Alamance is one of the most dramatic advances in the handling of domestic violence cases in many years,” says Judge Jim Roberson, Chief District Court Judge for Judicial District 15A. “This has been a dream since 2004 and a long time in the making. We had an amazing team in Alamance County and, without them, this never would have been possible.”
Says Lynn Rousseau, Director of Family Abuse Services, “I have been at Family Abuse Services for a little over two years, but have worked for many years with domestic violence victims. I have never witnessed teamwork like we have in Alamance County. For many, developing this system was additional work. Yet everyone stayed devoted and did whatever it took to see it through.”
Launched on June 24, 2013, the Electronic Protective Order System allows victims to obtain an ex parte protective order from the safety of the Family Justice Center, whereas previously, someone seeking relief was required to navigate to four different sites to complete the process – Family Abuse Services, the Clerk of Court’s Office, the Judge’s Office, and the Sheriff’s Office.
Greg Paravis, from Alamance County MIS, commented, “This is how technology is supposed to work – invisibly.”
The ex-parte, or temporary protective order, process in Alamance County is now fully automated with the victim initiating the order at the Family Justice Center through an online program developed by the NC Administrative Office of the Courts. Upon completion, one click by the Family Abuse Services’ court advocate electronically sends the order to the Clerk of Court’s office where the plaintiff is sworn in via a video telephone and, with a click of the mouse, electronically files the complaint, sets a hearing date, issues an electronic summons and sends the draft order to the presiding judge for an ex parte hearing. Again, so that the victim can remain at the Family Justice Center, the judge conducts the hearing via a video conference and determines if the actions described warrant the temporary protective order. If granted, the judge electronically signs the document and sends it back to the Clerk of Court’s office for filing and certification. The judge’s click also sends a copy of the order to the Family Justice Center where an advocate can print the order on the spot for the victim and to the Sheriff’s Department who has the equipment to print and serve the order onsite. Upon service, the victim is notified via email and/or a text message that the order has been served.
An additional value is officers, judges, magistrates and advocates ability to view the order at any time in order to assist the victim with enforcement.
In addition to safety for victims, this innovative technology improves the safety of officers who are now able to view the conditions included in an order, as well as a description of potential presence of firearms.
Judge Roberson added, “I cannot say enough positive things about the NC Administrative Office of the Courts (NCAOC) and their dedication to this project. They have worked with us every step of the way to guarantee that we had a product that was user friendly, efficient and effective. On the day of roll out, the NCAOC stationed technical help at every stakeholder’s location to address any problems that might arise. There was little to address – the system operated almost seamlessly and perfectly.”
Says Cindy Brady, Director of the Family Justice Center, “It was a proud moment for all of us, as we held our breath for the first order to go through. While it would have been inappropriate to applaud, we all silently cheered when the first order was completed and had been transmitted through all of the steps.
Periodic time studies conducted by Alamance County between February 2012 and April 2013 showed that one protective order, done manually, takes 12-15 hours. The Alamance Electronic Protective Order System Logistics Team predicts that the new system will cut that time by at least half. Donna Harris, Assistant Clerk of Court and a key member of the team, declared, “There is so much paperwork involved with obtaining a protective order and a lot of preparation time required to create the documents for the ex parte and full hearings. With this new technology, the orders are online – all the judge has to do is review it and set the conditions for the permanent order and click a button.”
The Domestic Violence Electronic Protective Order System in Alamance County is the first in the state and one of the few in the nation.