Written by National Association of Women Judges|June 29, 2020|News
An online news journal dedicated to gun violence recently turned its attention to the courts. According to a report: “In the first 16 months after a state law established a process for domestic abusers to turn over their guns, only 15 people have relinquished their firearms through the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office. That’s despite the fact that the New Orleans Police Department makes about 3,000 domestic violence arrests each year.”
NAWJ President Judge D’Souza, for whom ending the scourge of gun violence is a longstanding passion (hear her in recent NAWJ/ABA webinar, “Unsheltered at Home: COVID-19, Guns and Domestic Violence” here), stood out:
Even within Orleans Parish, there is at least one judge who says she routinely gets domestic abusers to hand over guns. Judge Bernadette D’Souza is a civil court judge, and oversees hearings for civil domestic violence protective orders. Her court is not included in the Court Watch NOLA report, but several people said she has been successful at getting guns away from accused abusers. She said she routinely asks both the petitioner and the subject of the protective order to take the stand and answer questions about guns during a protective order hearing. If the defendant says they do not have guns, D’Souza tells them that if they are later caught with a gun, they will be in violation of the protective order and could face up to 10 years in prison on the charge.
“I’ve not done my job if I’ve not made that inquiry,” D’Souza said. “What if I didn’t ask, only to find out that the defendant later used the weapon to kill the woman?”