Buhai Center Strengthens Protections for Domestic Violence Victims, Court Changes Policy After Buhai Center Initiative

Christina* was abused time and again by her ex-partner. When he was sent to prison for committing another violent crime, Christina found the courage to leave him and seek legal help from the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law. She was very scared that her ex-boyfriend would come after her and her children once he was released. She was terrified that he would easily find them if he knew her current address. Since Christina did not qualify for the state confidential address program, staff attorney, Katie Ojeda Stewart, decided they would use a post office box address on all court documents. When Christina went to court to file her pleadings, it was rejected. The Court Clerk insisted that Christina use a street address because documents with a “P.O. Box” address were not accepted.

The Center staff recognized that this policy created a major conflict. Victims would be forced to choose between their safety and moving forward with their cases. Challenged by and determined to change this, Center staff attorneys and law student interns, Marshall Spiegel and Laura Zaragoza, researched the foundation for the Court’s policy. In a well-supported memorandum, written by Spiegel, presented to the Court, the Center discussed the current policy and advocated for it to end because it was not mandated by state statutes or local court rules. The Court was receptive to the Center’s position and rescinded its policy. Individuals may now use a post office box as their mailing address on all court documents. This strengthens the protections the Center can offer victims of domestic violence, and also improves access to the court for individuals who may transient or homeless.

*Name has been changed to protect our client.