In addition to advocating for survivors in court, FVAP works with local, state, and federal policymakers to ensure the statutes, rules, and regulations used in court have survivors’ best interests at the forefront. It was a busy year for us working on such advocacy efforts. In California, at the local level we worked with survivor support agencies to ensure their county government officials follow laws regarding confidentiality and mandated reporting. And nationally, FVAP lobbied and signed onto multiple letters urging policymakers to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), establish an official awareness day for missing and murdered Native women and girls, improve the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, and close loopholes in the Victims of Crime Act. So far, federal actions have occurred on the Victims of Crime Act.
At the state level in California, FVAP has staff who serve on the Judicial Council Family and Juvenile Law Advisory Committee and on the California Lawyers Association Appellate Courts Committee. FVAP has also worked to ensure sufficient funding in the budget for items such as increasing the Equal Access Fund, ensuring court reports for trial court hearings, providing for ongoing sexual and domestic violence prevention programs, and allowing more workers to take paid sick leave. In addition, FVAP has provided comments to the Judicial Council on changes to their domestic violence restraining order and other court forms, amendments to court rules on preventing bias in court interactions, and guidelines for video remote interpreting.
Perhaps FVAP has been most active in working on state legislation in California. On the housing side, of the bills that are now law, FVAP submitted letters in support of AB 832 to protect tenants impacted by COVID-19, and AB 838 to ensure more equity in local inspections of habitability. Regarding domestic violence restraining orders, FVAP supported AB 1057 to clarify what is a firearm, SB 24 to restrict abusers’ access to children’s school, medical, or work information, SB 320 to clarify trial court procedure for ensuring restrained parties have turned over their firearms, SB 374 to clarify that coercive control (a form of disturbing the peace, which is a type of abuse) includes reproductive coercion, and SB 538 to allow restraining orders to be filed electronically and parties to appear remotely. FVAP also supported AB 262 to ease the process for clearing criminal records for human trafficking survivors, SB 498 to expand eligibility for accessing services funded by the Interest On Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA), and SB 654 to better protect children when testifying and when they are ordered to unsupervised visitation with an alleged abuser.
Some of the California bills FVAP has worked are now “two-year bills,” meaning they were not passed or dropped this year but will be continued to be worked on next year. These include AB 854 to temporarily stop Ellis Act evictions, AB 1493 to better protect against evictions of survivors, SB 373 to add debt protections for survivors, SB 537 to improve the child welfare system’s response to domestic violence, and SB 774 to provide for attorney-client privilege for complaints to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
Finally, FVAP’s new Washington office has been active in that state. For instance, FVAP provided input on HB 1320, which significantly amended statutes relating to all of the civil protective orders. And FVAP’s Washington staff are heavily involved in multiple workgroups to implement this legislation and to ensure gender equity in family court.