Some argue that an alternative definition for insanity is walking into a courtroom without legal representation. But last year in Lafayette Parish, 10 percent of domestic violence victims seeking a court-ordered permanent restraining order – known as Title 46 protection – did just that.
To combat the inequity, the Lafayette Parish Bar Foundation oversees the Protective Order Program, which provides free legal representation to women who are victims of abuse and are seeking relief from the court system. Yet it can only do so much on a limited budget bolstered by largely private donations.
That’s why the bar’s faithful were excited to discover earlier this month that a $84,963 check from the Edward Byrne Justice Grants program was being directed to help beef up POP. “The money made available by this grant will bolster our efforts to truly help women break free from the cycle of domestic violence,” says Susan Holiday of the Lafayette Parish Bar Foundation.
Holiday says the funds will be used to increase domestic violence victim services by increasing referrals to POP works to protect those seeking assistance. “If we are able to increase that amount with this grant by increasing the number of clients who are taken into the POP and increasing the number of pro bono volunteers who represent these women, research has proven a higher likelihood of success for those seeking Title 46 and other protections,” she adds.
Byrne grants are intended to enhance local justice systems and provide for national support efforts. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat who played a role in securing the grant money, says “programs like the POP are vital support services in our communities.”