San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and City Attorney Mara Elliott threw their support Friday behind legislation that would allow domestic violence victims to testify in court virtually, rather than face-to-face with their abusers.
Senate Bill 538, authored by Sen. Susan Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, would also allow domestic violence and gun violence restraining order petitions to be filed electronically and for witnesses to appear remotely for court hearings on those petitions. The bill received unanimous approval from the state Senate last week, and is currently headed to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
“This is essential legislation that will ensure additional harm isn’t caused to victims of domestic violence or gun violence while providing them with necessary access to justice,” said Gloria. “This bill will pave the way for victims of violence to get their lives back on track and begin to heal.”
While remote testimony has become the norm in California courtrooms since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, proceedings are expected to revert back to in-person hearings as pandemic restrictions are lifted across the state.
The City Attorney’s Office said victim participation at restraining order hearings has swelled with the use of online hearings, as remote appearances can remove the specter of threats and intimidation from the abuser in open court, as well as other obstacles victims face, such as transportation and childcare concerns.
“For survivors of domestic violence, nothing can be more terrifying than having to face your abuser in the confines of a courtroom,” Elliott said. “For that reason, some never seek court orders to protect themselves and their children. Remote testimony removes that obstacle, and also benefits those who lack transportation or childcare, which are common consequences of fleeing an abuser.”