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Judges step up to clear family violence case backlog

A national increase in domestic abuse, coupled with jury trial restrictions due to the pandemic, led to a backlog of 4,500 misdemeanor cases in the county.

BEXAR COUNTY, Texas — In a bottleneck breakthrough, a group of judges is stepping up to clear a backlog of more than 4,500 family violence misdemeanor cases in Bexar County—the most common type of domestic violence misdemeanor in the area. 

CLICK: Family Violence Prevention Services, Inc.

More than 2,500 of these cases are waiting for a court date, along with nearly 2,000 other kinds of family violence cases.

“I'd like to tell the survivors and victims of domestic violence that this is a new day in Bexar County, that we hear you and we are all working to bring justice to you,” said Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales.

2020 has brought a rise in domestic violence across the country, and with jury trials delayed locally due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s now a backlog of 4,540 misdemeanor cases in the San Antonio area. 

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 

“A lot of (victims) are still living with their alleged abusers,” Gonzales said. “Certainly that's a situation that needs to be remedied.”

County Courts 7 and 13 are the only ones dedicated to family violence cases. On Friday, six additional judges offered a solution.

“We're stepping forward, because we see a need,” said Bexar County Court 5 Judge John Longoria.

He and the other judges who have agreed to tackle the backlog completed specialized training and can now take family violence issues in their caseloads.

“I am confident that we will address it all so that there will be equal and swift justice for both the complaining witnesses and those that are accused,” said Bexar County Court 13 Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez.

She thanked the other judges for agreeing to the project.

“Why am I involved? Why do I care? Because it is an issue that affects our families in this community,” said Bexar County Court 8 Judge Mary Roman.

The district attorney urges anyone in a violent situation to reach out to law enforcement or a loved one for help getting to safety. Resources are available here, and by calling the Family Violence Prevention Services Crisis Hotline at (210)733-8810.

“Really, the bottom line is saving lives,” said Bexar County Court 7 Judge Michael De Leon. “We’ve seen that domestic violence can lead to family violence murders here in our county, unfortunately. We have to do everything possible we can to make sure that that number continues to go down.”