Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Brad Trowbridge: In his own words

Brad Trowbridge is a candidate for the Cole vacancy in Cook County's 8th Judicial Subcircuit.

With nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, domestic violence on the rise, and the legal definition of marriage expanding, our judges are called upon every day to intervene in human relationships. Their decisions have long-term implications for children, families and society.

I have thousands of hours of litigation experience. I am in court every day and have tried hundreds of cases. I am well versed in the law, rules of evidence and civil procedure. But, frankly, any qualified judicial candidate should have those credentials.

What sets me apart from other candidates is my professional experience. Prior to practicing law, I earned a Master’s degree in Human Development Counseling, and worked for over ten years with people from all walks of life: minority teen mothers, the elderly, the chronically mentally ill, and people with HIV and AIDS. I conducted home visits in places like Cabrini-Green and the Lathrop Homes. I saw how people really live, and the struggles they face.

As an attorney, I have been a zealous advocate for battered women and their children. I have represented over 500 victims of domestic violence in orders of protection, dissolutions of marriage, and child custody cases, against some of the most high-profile abusers, including politicians, police officers, and other lawyers. I also have lectured and trained other attorneys and court advocates about the Illinois Domestic Violence Act, and serve on the boards of two domestic violence prevention agencies, the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network and A New Direction Beverly-Morgan Park.

This experience has given me insight into the dynamics of domestic violence that is currently lacking in our judiciary.

According to a 2008 Chicago Tribune investigation, our courts “are failing battered women.” Approximately 20,000 domestic violence cases are filed each year in Cook County. Yet, only 17% of these cases result in conviction. Multiple times I have heard judges blame victims of abuse by asking accusingly, “What did you do to provoke him?” and “If you are so mistreated why don’t you leave him?”

Most alleged abusers leave court with no jail time, no fines, and no treatment services. The abuse continues unabated. Victims lose faith in the system. The parties’ children often develop emotional and behavioral problems, and are at great risk for repeating the dynamics of domestic violence in their adult relationships. Another generation of abuse is born.

There are many ways domestic violence court may be improved. One such way is to assign judges to that division who have training in human psychology, who understand the dynamics of abuse and who want to be there because they care about these families.

These same characteristics also are needed in all courts dealing with family issues, whether it is divorce, child custody, or juvenile abuse and neglect. Frankly, while we are fortunate to have many excellent domestic relations judges in Cook County, there is still a significant need for judges who are more in touch with the issues of our time.

I have worked diligently to stay abreast of current issues affecting our courts. I completed a 40-hour training on divorce mediation, and have attended many conferences to learn about the latest psychological, scientific, legal and technological information. I have been a member of many associations, including the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, to learn about current family law issues and developments affecting judges across the country.

Just recently, of all the attorneys in Illinois, the Illinois State Bar Association asked me to author a book chapter on the Illinois Civil Union Act and legal issues facing same-sex couples for their Illinois Family Law Handbook. The Handbook was published in October 2011, and will be used by practitioners all over Illinois to advise their same-sex couple clients.

In sum, my background in counseling, knowledge of human behavior and awareness of domestic violence create a set of skills that are sorely needed in our judiciary. I want to be a judge because I believe I can bring a unique perspective to the bench, and can improve the judicial system for families, children and society.

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