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The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs has selected recipients from 12 countries to receive the 2008 UN Public Service Awards in New York on June 23rd. The UN‘s Director of the Division for Public Administration, Mr. Guido Bertucci, announced the award May 12, 2008 in New York.
Judge Eugene Hyman and the Santa Clara County Superior Court have been selected as the recipient for this prestigious honor for having broken new ground in United States jurisprudence. Judge Hyman is the creator and founder of the Santa Clara County Juvenile Domestic and Family Violence Court.

This award marks the first occasion that an American has won the UN‘s coveted Public Service Award.

The Juvenile Violence Court has had a dramatic impact on reducing the number of violent young offenders being re-arrested for violent crimes and Judge Hyman has done it, not by spending more money, but by a common sense approach to changing attitudes and expectations that is stunning in its simplicity, cost efficiency and promise for meaningfully stopping the revolving door of violence.

The U.S. perpetuates a culture of violence and misogyny and government institutions fail to intervene at appropriate times. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, one in five teenage women are physically and violently abused by their partners. These violent juveniles become violent adults and the knee jerk reaction is to first send them to juvenile hall, and later they graduate to the county jail, next to prison and after three felonies, prison forever.

Even though the expense is horrific and there has been little increase in public safety, locking up offenders is an easy response. Law enforcement, prosecutors and the courts do this work efficiently.

The United States has more people in jail and prison than any other country in the world, including China with its population of 1.3 billion, more than four times the 300 million residents of the U.S.

The rate of incarceration in the U.S. is astronomical. 1 in 99 adults. The rate for Chicanos is 1 in 36 and for black adult males it is 1 in 15. For black men age 20 to 34 the rate is 1 in 9. The U.S. is the undisputed leader. No other country comes close as Adam Liptak so stunningly reported on April 23, 2008 in the New York Times:” Inmate Count in U.S. Dwarfs Other Nations.”

Despite the fact that seventy-five percent of all murders are crimes of domestic violence, American courts have ignored domestic violence education and training, which have been proven effective in reducing the social and economic cost of domestic violence.

In the face of this tragedy, Judge Hyman is a bright flame of hope that is beginning to catch on. His leadership in creating the Santa Clara County Domestic and Family Violence Court merits the accolades of the U.N.

Judge Hyman was the first to implement this very creative change in the justice system, recognizing that adult domestic violence offenders did not appear out of whole cloth in criminal courts. Domestic violence is learned and passed from one generation to another and from this breeding ground it escalates until it becomes murder. For decades domestic violence has been ignored by police and juvenile courts as something less than a serious crime.

The hallmark of the Judge Hyman‘s program the very first of its kind in the United States is that it brings dedicated and intense attention to family violence offenses through a system-wide focus on intervention and rehabilitation.

The focus in Santa Clara County starts with a mandatory arrest policy, followed by a dedicated and trained team of prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers and legal advocates under the supervision of a dedicated Superior Court Judge. The goal is to treat these offenses as serous crimes. Santa Clara supervises the progress of juvenile offenders during a 26-week educational counseling program and thereafter for a total of 18 months.

This is a major break from the past when these offenses were not prosecuted in the Juvenile Court, but rather were treated informally as family problems, not as crimes, with probation officers providing informal supervision outside of the formal Juvenile Court system. Our legal system waited until the juvenile offender became a violent adult and only then did it take notice, long after abusive conduct had become ingrained, re-learned and tragically re-inflicted injury on others and taught to the next generation.

The key to breaking the cycle of violence learned by one generation, and taught to the next by abusive parents, is to identify children who will grow into abusive adults, more likely to become repeat offenders and to work with them in a learning and rehabilitation process over a period of many months.

Judge Hyman started a zero tolerance policy for juvenile domestic violence in the 13 cities in Santa Clara County.

In the past family members and partners have been reluctant to involve aggressors in the juvenile court system. Police when called commonly imposed a cooling off period and then left the scene without taking action, losing the opportunity to intervene, only to be recalled, often to more aggravated situations.

As a former police officer and experience trial lawyer, Judge Hyman recognized the value in identifying aggressors and targeting them for early intervention and rehabilitation. That was the origin of a zero tolerance policy. As a result, juvenile aggressors in Santa Clara County are either arrested or cited to appear before the Domestic and Family Violence Court, ending the days of informal supervision which failed to seize the opportunity to intervene and break the chain of violence.

The Domestic and Family Violence Court has proven itself by reducing the number of offenders being re-arrested for domestic violence. This has been accomplished by top to bottom training program in domestic violence for prosecutors, public defenders and probation officers. Everyone understands that the first evidence of domestic violence by a juvenile provides the optimum time to intervene and have an impact on preventing future crime that benefits the first offender, the offenders family and the community.

In addition to early accountability and victim safety, the additional services provided to victims are unique. Under the Domestic and Family Violence Court, in cases where juvenile aggressors have parented a child, specialized services are provided to mothers to establish paternity, custody, and visitation, imposed financial responsibility and obtain civil restraining orders to assure the safety of victims and their children.

Judge Hyman has drafted protocols to address law enforcement, probation, prosecution, intervention, and support for victims. These stakeholders can readily train new team members and when new people join the process that instigates a review of best practices, case law and new legislation to update the practices of the team. Lastly, the protocols provide a foundation for the program that is grounded and shared, not relying on individuals and oral training.

The most valuable aspect of the Santa Clara County Domestic and Family Violence Court is that it can be easily implemented across the country because it does not require additional budget.

All that it takes is knowledge of the program and a commitment to reducing the toll of domestic violence by intervening with juveniles to preclude further crime and to provide rehabilitation that can help individuals remove themselves from the circle of family violence that plagues so many cultures.

Judge Hyman is an outstanding public servant who has proven what creative thinking can do. He has led the way in the United States for other courts to adopt similar programs that will have a positive impact in reducing the damage caused by domestic violence. See and hear the full story on
Judge Hyman is the first in the US to have broken new ground in his unique approach to dealing with juvenile domestic violence and it provides a gold standard for other communities to emulate.

On behalf of a grateful public, thank you Judge Hyman. We need more judge like you. Judges who care. Judges willing to make a difference for all of us.


Richard Alexander