RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION TO URGE SUPREME COURT ACTION TO ADDRESS GENDER BIAS IN FAMILY LAW MATTERS

WHEREAS, on March 3, 2003, the Pennsylvania's Supreme Court's Committee on Racial and Gender Bias in the Justice System presented its final report to the Supreme Court in which it found that gender bias exists within family law and domestic relations proceedings in Pennsylvania;

WHEREAS, on March 25, 2003, the Philadelphia Bar Association Board of Governors unanimously passed a resolution "commending the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Committee on Racial and Gender Bias in the Justice System for its extraordinary efforts, insightful findings and report recommendations" and authorized the Chancellor to take the appropriate steps to encourage further consideration of the issues addressed in the report;

WHEREAS, the Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association appointed a Special Committee to Coordinate the Bar's Response to the Supreme Court Racial and Gender Bias Report and Recommendations;

WHEREAS, on July 24, 2003, the Philadelphia Bar Association adopted a Resolution on Improving the Delivery of Justice in the Domestic Relations Division of Philadelphia Family Court, in which the Philadelphia Bar Association resolved to take steps to address concerns which are also the subject of gender bias findings by the Supreme Court's Committee on Racial and Gender Bias in the Justice System;

WHEREAS, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the appropriate body to address the statewide delivery of justice in family law matters;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association hereby

1. Urges the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to take steps to eliminate gender bias in family law matters by:

A. Requiring training of all judicial personnel on gender bias, substantive family law areas such as domestic violence, custody, divorce, and support, the nature of domestic violence, including safety issues for families affected by domestic violence, cultural issues affecting victims, domestic violence among same sex partners, male victims, communications training regarding persons with limitedEnglish proficiency or with communications disabilities, and financial equity issues surrounding divorce.

B. Conducting and publishing audits of the allocation of funding and personnel to family law matters in each judicial district;

C. Conducting and publishing audits of Pennsylvania Common Pleas courts pursuant to the Trial Court Performance Standards published by the National Center for State Courts,

D. Taking steps to ensure that all courts handling family law matters:

· provide pro se litigants with written and oral information and the necessary forms to represent themselves in custody, support, protection from abuse, and divorce proceedings, including in appropriate languages where necessary for limited English proficient litigants;

· adjudicate cases in a timely fashion;

· ensure safe courthouses and courtrooms;

· support on site social services in domestic relations proceedings;

· explore ways to provide child care for litigants and parties in or in proximity to the courthouse;

· develop safe visitation centers;

· support evening and weekend operations; and

· support the provision of facilities and assignment of sufficient personnel to accomplish all of the above-mentioned goals.

E. Directing the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts to develop uniform questionnaires for court collection of data and collect and report on its website additional data about family law matters, including:

· The outcome of family law filings by gender, race, and ethnicity of parties;

· The number of Protection From Abuse cases:

i. dismissed for failure to establish the legal grounds for order;

ii. dismissed due to the non appearance of the plaintiff;

iii. dismissed due to absence of service on the defendant;

iv. withdrawn by petitioner;

· The number of Protection From Abuse petitions resolved by judicial decision and the number resolved by agreement of the parties;

· The number of Protection From Abuse cases that result in the issuance of orders against both parties;

· Analysis of the types of relief awarded and frequency in civil Protection From Abuse cases;

· The number of criminal domestic violence proceedings and type of relief ordered;

· The number of contempt actions filed in Protection From Abuse cases and outcomes of such actions;

· Analysis of the types of relief awarded and frequency in criminal domestic violence cases;

· The number of Plaintiffs and number of Defendants in Protection From Abuse actions who have representation.

· The demographics of pro se custody and support litigation.

F. Seeking and allocating additional funds to support these actions.

2. Authorizes the Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar to take whatever steps are necessary to effectuate this resolution.


PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: December 18, 2003