An estimated 40 percent of the restraining orders issued by New Haven judges in domestic violence cases between 2010 and 2011 never got served, according to testimony provided to a state task force Wednesday.
The record of serving restraining orders in abuse cases in Bridgeport doesn’t appear much better, said Aaron P. Wenzloff, a staff attorney with the New Haven Legal Assistance Association. He said statistics from that city’s courts indicate that 30 percent of the restraining orders issued between October and December of last year were never served.
At its first meeting, the legislative task force heard about a long list of problems with the current system of providing restraining orders to protect victims of domestic abuse.
Bureaucratic delays, communication problems, inadequate information and low payments to state marshals, and failures by some marshals to meet required deadlines all contributed to the many failures to serve restraining orders, various state officials said.
The panel is charged with coming up with recommendations for reforming Connecticut’s system of domestic abuse restraining orders. Activists have complained for years that gaps and delays in the system have allowed abusers to seriously injure and even kill victims who have sought protection.
State policy is to only pay a marshal for a single successful attempt to serve a restraining order on a person accused of domestic violence, said Robert B. Gyle, vice president of the association representing state marshals. A state Attorney General’s opinion limits payment to a marshal to just $30 plus travel expenses and only if the service is successful.
Members of the task force questioned whether such a limited payment system discourages marshals from making multiple efforts to find the target of a restraining order.
Wenzloff and other officials said abuse victims applying for restraining orders often run into difficulty finding a marshal to serve the court papers.
Gyle said marshals frequently don’t have much information about where the target of a restraining order is living, or where he or she works, making it difficult or impossible to serve the order. He said it’s virtually impossible to find someone when their listed address can be as vague as “the streets of Waterbury.”