Funded by the State Justice Institute (SJI) and published in August 1999, this publication provides judges and
other professionals with a unique reference guide on how to become more culturally competent in handling
domestic violence cases. Designed primarily for state court judges, the Benchbook provides summaries of the
relevant criminal and civil law and guides judges in handling such issues as jurisdiction under the Indian Child
Welfare Act and the special concerns and needs of immigrant battered women. The benchbook was recently
nominated by the State Justice Institute for the annual Howell Heflin Award, given to SJI-supported projects
that have a high likelihood of significantly improving the quality of justice in state courts across the nation.
This Benchbook can help judges and other professionals:
- Identify cultural issues that arise in domestic violence cases.
Focus on individual persons in handling cultural issues without being distracted or influenced by
- Develop greater cultural awareness in domestic violence cases.
- Improve cultural competence in their work.
Specifically, judges can use this Benchbook to:
- Analyze qualifications of an expert on culture and the relevance of testimony in a criminal case.
- consider a defendant's contention that his or her views and reactions to a situation were reasonable according to his or her cultural beliefs.
- Determine the influence of culture on sentencing of a domestic violence perpetrator.
- Handle cultural issues in child custody and visitation decisions.
- Resolve state or tribal court jurisdictional issues involving American Indian children under the Indian Child Welfare Act.
- Understand immigration implications for victims and perpetrators who appear in state court proceedings involving domestic violence.
- Remedy language and other barriers that inhibit equal access to courts.