American Judges Association



David Suntag

Date of this Version



Court Review - Volume 57


Used by permission.


In 2007, I had the privilege of helping to create and then preside over an innovative domestic violence docket in the rural county of Bennington, Vermont: the Bennington Integrated Domestic Violence Docket (IDVD). With few financial resources but energetic justice system and community support, we created a holistic, collaborative court process, which combined misdemeanor criminal domestic violence cases with related family docket protective order cases, as well as some related divorce and parentage cases in a same-day/one-judge, conferencing-type docket. Subsequent studies by the Vermont Criminal Research Group (VCRG) showed significantly improved outcomes for those who found themselves caught in the formal justice system due to the seemingly unremitting impact of domestic violence (DV). In a recidivism study comparing statewide traditional criminal court treatment of misdemeanor DV cases with treatment of similarly situated cases in the IDVD docket over a three-year study period, the rate of DV criminal recidivism decreased by over 40% while the rate of recidivism for any new crime decreased by over 50%.1 In 2014 this program was duplicated in another county, and a preliminary research note by the VCRG showed no criminal recidivism during an initial eleven-month period.