It took days for a South Florida woman to get a restraining order against her abusive husband because the courthouse was at capacity due to the COVID-19 restrictions, her lawyer said.
Lawyer Jean Richardson showed NBC 6 the photographs of her injuries, showing a bruised eye, scratches and a swollen lip. He’s not releasing the photos to protect his client’s identity.
Richardson said the woman came to his North Miami office on Monday.
“The minute she arrived, it was obvious that she had been battered,” Richardson said.
Too afraid to call police, he eventually convinced this mother to file a restraining order against her abusive husband. However, when they got to the North Dade Justice Center off Biscayne Boulevard, he said they were told to come back the next day and that the courthouse was at capacity because of coronavirus restrictions. He said the victim still had visible injuries.
“I’m standing with this young woman who had been battered, who’s reluctant to come forward in the first place, and I was turned away,” Richardson said. “Even after showing the photographs, proving ... and her face had the evidence of a battery and yet we were turned away.”
They tried the next day and Richardson said they were sent away again. One of his staff members pushed back and got referred to the courthouse in downtown Miami, where they finally filed the paperwork.
It took three days to get the restraining order served.
“Three hours is significant, let alone three days,” said Richardson, who said this could be a life or death situation.
Richardson says it’s hard enough to get victims of domestic violence to come forward in the first place.
“That’s unacceptable under no circumstances should we ever use COVID as an excuse to turn victims of domestic violence away," he said.
The Clerk of Court's Office said in a statement to NBC 6 Thursday that they are in the process of reviewing the matter.
“Thank you for bringing this important matter to our attention. The Clerk’s Office is in the process of reviewing this matter and will work with our justice partners at the Administrative Office of the Courts, and Miami-Dade County’s Internal Services Department, who owns and manages the Courthouses, to ensure that we are able to continue to provide essential services during this pandemic," the statement read.
When NBC 6 spoke to someone from the Clerk’s Office over the phone, they said that someone from security is supposed to call them to come down in an emergency type of situation. But Richardson said that did not happen.
NBC 6 also reached out to the Miami-Dade Internal Services Department, which is in charge of managing the building operations. We are still waiting to hear back.