New bill in Texas Senate would mandate domestic violence training for judges across the state

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Monday, February 20, 2023
New bill would mandate domestic violence training for judges
The new legislation would zero in on domestic violence for additional time to help the judges better understand the cycle of abuse.

Texas judges already get 12 hours of training in family violence and trafficking, but new legislation would zero in on domestic violence for additional time to help the judges better understand the cycle of abuse.

It was earlier this month that ABC13 reported the sharp increase in domestic violence, particularly those that involved homicide.

"It is unfortunately very pervasive," Maisha Colter, CEO of Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, told ABC13. "These situations are more lethal, more dangerous than they have ever been, and the things we're doing to intervene and stop it are not being as effective as they could potentially be."

Colter is also on a policy committee that recommends solutions to legislators. One of them included SB 855, which, in addition to current training, "would require at least one hour dedicated to the dynamics of and effects on victims of family violence, and would require each judge of a court having primary responsibility for or giving preference to family law or family violence matters to complete an additional two hours of training every two years dedicated to the dynamics of and effects on victims of family violence."

RELATED: Grim milestone: Houston sets 20-year record for deadly domestic violence cases

State Senator Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, is one of the bill's sponsors.

"There is a lot of trauma that's involved when there are cases of domestic violence," Alvarado said. "Especially after the pandemic, we've seen domestic violence increase. So there is a need to make sure that everybody involved at every level has the proper training, the proper etiquette to handle these sensitive situations."

The other cosponsor in the Senate is State Senator Morgan LaMantia, D-South Padre Island.

"Senate Bill 855 is a step in the right direction," LaMantia said, suggesting the bill is a tool judges across the state can use to help families in crisis.

"When they are overseeing cases, hopefully, they'll have the tools to identify when family violence is a matter in the case," she said.

Noor Saleh agrees. She is a policy advisor with the Minaret Foundation, one of the organizations behind the development of SB 855.

"Judges of all sorts are not getting the training that they need unless they are specifically presiding over family law courts," she said. "We know that domestic violence permeates every level of society."

The bill now needs a partner in the House before it can begin the long road toward becoming law.

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SEE ALSO: 'Tremendously traumatized' Houston police face the growing problem of domestic violence