ND Law School, Family Justice Center Partner to Protect Families

The Law School at the University of Notre Dame and the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County are partnering to provide help to women seeking protective orders against their abusers. The program is the result of a $200,000 grant awarded by the United States Department of Justice—one of just 15 grants awarded nationwide last year through the Family Justice Center Initiative.

Approximately 20 Notre Dame Law School students spend hours each week interviewing clients and helping them fill out a petition for a protective order. All work is done under the supervision of licensed, practicing attorneys, including Law School faculty. Thus far, more than 700 families have benefitted from the service since its inception last fall.

“Before this program began, most of the cases were filed pro se—by the person seeking protection,” says Peter Morgan, a Notre Dame Law School alumnus and director of the Family Justice Center. “That posed problems, because the petitioners would make mistakes on the forms or file them inappropriately, which slowed the process down.” Also, based on information in the petition, the judge may order a wide range of relief for the complainant, from eviction of the perpetrator to medical reimbursement to the prohibition of purchasing a firearm, so it’s vital that the petition is complete and correct.

Training for new student participants begins in January.

CONTACT: Prof. Judy Fox, Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic, 574-631-7795; or Peter Morgan, Family Justice Center Executive Director, 574-234-6900