Empowering Domestic Violence Victims With Online Protection Order Petitions

Instead of a potentially traumatic courthouse visit, victims of domestic violence in Portland can now file protection order petitions online, from the safety of Portland’s renowned Gateway Center.

Challenge

The Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services, in Portland, Oregon is a multi-purpose service center for victims and their children. Restraining orders are critical safety mechanisms for many of these victims. Yet, restraining order petitions are tedious to complete. Originally, there was only one place to file restraining order petitions in Multnomah County – the County Courthouse—which is perceived as unsafe for many victims. The Gateway Center is a second, safer location for victims to access and file restraining order petitions.

The US Department of Justice awarded the City of Portland funding to develop an easier and more accessible domestic violence restraining order petition process. The City needed a provider with technical experience developing and implementing electronic legal document assembly and interactive e-filing tools for restraining order petitions.

Solution

The Gateway Center and its visitors needed an easy-to-use, comprehensive electronic tool to file protection order petitions (restraining order) with the Court. After a competitive bidding process, the Gateway Center selected the nation’s leading e-Court solution provider, TurboCourt, to design and deploy its private cloud solution.

TurboCourt’s award-winning, guided interview technology empowers domestic violence victims and their Gateway Center Navigators, to swiftly prepare and file protection orders online.

“The litigant is presented with questions, and options for answers to each question,” Judge Maureen McKnight, Multnomah County Circuit Court explained. “The particular answers given determine which branch of the logic tree will be followed.”

Judge McKnight went on to identify, “Another major benefit [from TurboCourt] is the presence of dozens of FAQs and links that provide explanations to terms and processes relevant to the specific page.”

TurboCourt electronic questionnaire forms are used to submit over 90% of all Multnomah County’s restraining order applications. “It has been a very successful implementation,” according to Portland Oregon Ordinance No. 186005.

The Gateway Center saved even more staff time, costs, and expedited court order issuance and Sheriff service, by implementing the eMessenger feature, allowing forms to be transferred electronically between the Gateway Center and the Courthouse.

Results

The TurboCourt Domestic Violence e-Filing Solution has produced dramatically positive results for the Gateway Center, the Multnomah County Circuit Court, Sheriff and the victims served. The project started in May and was completed in August 2012.

  • The guided, interactive interview technology helps quickly generate forms that can be filed with the courthouse, freeing up Gateway Center staff to focus on supporting victims in other critical areas.
  • The project was implemented successfully, and satisfaction is at an all-time high.
  • In May 2013, the City of Portland extended the contract with TurboCourt, through May 2017.
  • The Sheriff’s Office was able to electronically access court granted orders and efficiently perform service of these processes.

“Benefits to the court include the reduced staff time providing assistance, plus the basic legibility of the text,” explained Judge McKnight.