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Alumni profile: One family, one judge

8:53 AM  Oct 25th, 2016
by Michele Wojciechowski

When the Honorable Patricia Henry ’69 lays down her gavel and retires in October, she’ll have a lot to be proud of. While having served both as a lawyer and as a judge in various courts throughout her career, she’ll end her time in the profession working in a court that has changed the lives of thousands of people involved in domestic violence.

From 2005, when she was appointed an acting Supreme Court Judge in Kings Country, New York, until her retirement in 2016, Henry has worked in the Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) Court. While working as counsel for the deputy chief administrative judge for court operations for the state of New York, Henry helped her boss develop the IDV courts.

“You don’t always get a chance to see things through from vision to program,” says Henry, who studied psychology at UD.

The IDV court was designed to respond to common problems — that people with domestic violence issues may have cases in three, four or even more different courts such as criminal, family, housing and others. Often, people wouldn’t seek assistance because it took too much time. With IDV, though, all their cases are transferred to one judge, who has jurisdiction over all. Specially trained prosecutors knowledgeable about domestic violence cases and a cadre of lawyers working as defense attorneys try their cases in front of Judge Henry.

In the 10 years it’s been in existence, the IDV court in Kings County has seen more than 8,000 families with more than 32,000 cases.

“The cases proceed with fewer adjournments and requirements for the parties to appear, allowing litigants to avoid missing work or school. The prosecutor’s office reports that more victims cooperate with [them], resulting in fewer cases being dismissed,” Henry says.

While she says there is still much work to be done in understanding domestic violence and providing interventions to reduce its impact, Henry says, “I am proud to have been part of this change.”

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