A civil protective order in Georgia is commonly called a temporary protective order, or TPO. The Georgia TPO Forum (the Forum) is a collaborative effort among practitioners who are deeply passionate about ending domestic violence and minimizing its effects on victims.1 The Forum is made up of advocates and attorneys who work every day with people who need protection from violence. Members provide each other not only with suggestions and solutions to problems, but also a listening ear in a profession where another tragic case is always on its way. The Forum is also uniquely positioned to offer recommendations about how civil protective order courts can be trauma-informed and supportive of victims.
From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Forum has provided a crucial resource for its members from around the state of Georgia. Advocates and attorneys met as often as possible to confer on their programs' safety protocols because other domestic violence advocates would understand the need to balance the health and safety of their staff with the highly sensitive and emergent needs of their clients. Members also discussed their observations regarding how the pandemic affected domestic violence survivors specifically, noting that the eviction crisis, high unemployment, and criminal justice reform only complicated the already complex circumstances that survivors face. Crucially, the Forum also discussed the courts: how the legal system responded to the pandemic, to what extent these responses inadvertently exacerbated problems facing survivors, and how survivors could be better served in the future.
The purpose of this article is twofold: to provide some of the Forum's substantive recommendations, for use by advocates, attorneys, and courts as a suggestion or tool for discussion; and to describe the Forum's activities in hopes that this will encourage other practitioners to form similar groups in their own jurisdictions. This article will, in Part I, describe the civil protective order process in Georgia, for context; in Part II, describe the origins of the Forum and give examples of some of our key best practice recommendations pre-COVID-19; and in Part III, give a brief account of how COVID-19 changed Georgia, the courts, and civil protective orders from March 2020 to June 2021.2
Christine M. Scartz, Sarah White, and Jaime Boorman,
Lessons from a Pandemic: Recommendations from the Georgia TPO Forum for Strengthening Protections Against Domestic Violence
, 55 Fam. L.Q. 123
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/fac_artchop/1447