Lehigh County Recognizes Domestic Violence Awareness Month

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Announces Legal Seminar for Legal Representatives of Domestic Abuse Victims

(Allentown, PA)- Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong, Lehigh County President Judge Edward D. Reibman, and Lehigh County District Attorney James B. Martin joined together today to recognize October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month here in Lehigh County.  State Representative Peter Schweyer presented House Resolution 467 which recognized October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month throughout Pennsylvania.  State Senator Patrick M. Browne has introduced a similar resolution in the State Senate.

One in four women and one in seven men have experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner.  Last year alone, domestic violence claimed the lives of 122 Pennsylvanians.

Armstrong, Reibman, and Martin noted the impact of domestic violence in our own communities and the court system.  From 2015 – 2018, Lehigh County has seen nearly 1,400 new Protection from Abuse (PFA) cases filed each year, and approximately 800 – 900 new domestic violence cases in that same time span.  This year, by the end of September, there were already over 1100 new PFA cases filed, with the anticipation the Lehigh County courts will see a new record number of filings.

Despite this large number of new cases, roughly 60% of the new PFA cases never result in final PFA orders because the victims do not appear or insufficient evidence is presented.  In June of this year, Lehigh County was one of five counties from across the nation, and the only one from Pennsylvania, to be invited to attend the Family Court Enhancement Project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges to address heightened awareness and advancements in court systems to address domestic violence and its victims.  Judge Douglas G. Reichley, Administrative Judge for the Family Court division of Lehigh County, Family Court Administrator Richard P. Focht, Esq., Brittany Randall, Esq. from North Penn Legal Services, and Linda Thomas from Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley attended and were urged to continue efforts to improve outcomes for domestic violence victims.

As a result, they were joined by other judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, president of the Bar Association of Lehigh County James J. Kozuch, and representatives of Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley, North Penn Legal Services, Lehigh Valley Health Network, and St. Luke’s University Health Network to announce a joint initiative to increase pro bono representation of PFA petitioners at final PFA hearings.  On October 31, 2019, a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) training session presented by North Penn Legal Services and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and jointly underwritten by St. Luke’s University Health Network and Lehigh Valley Health Network, will be held at the Bar Association of Lehigh County at 1114 W. Walnut Street, Allentown, PA for any attorney interested in volunteering to represent PFA applicants qualified by Turning Point.

Additionally, North Penn will be offering additional CLE credits for every five hours of preparation and representation of approved PFA petitioners in court proceedings.  It is the goal of all the sponsors of the CLE training to foster an improved court atmosphere for those who wish to obtain initial PFA orders and for those same petitioners to follow through at final PFA hearings if they seek additional protections against alleged abusers.

The CLE session will begin at 8:30 a.m. on October 31, 2019.  Any attorneys interested in this program should contact Nancy Devers at 610-433-6204.

 

Information provided to TVL by:
Joshua Siegel
Public Information Officer
County of Lehigh, Office of the County Executive
17 S. 7th Street, 4th Floor, Suite 436
Allentown, PA 18101
www.lehighcounty.org