County auditor finds barriers to access, inequities in outcomes for people seeking protection orders

The auditors made several recommendations to improve the protection order process.

A flow chart showing the protection order process (Screenshot from King County Auditor’s Office report)

A flow chart showing the protection order process (Screenshot from King County Auditor’s Office report)

In King County, people seeking a protection order – a legal restriction to contact from a harassing or abusing individual – face complex processes, insufficient help and racial disparities in outcomes, according to a new report from the King County Auditor’s Office.

The findings of the audit were presented to the King County Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee on May 3.

The audit, which looked at protection order petitions in King County Superior Court between January 2016 and June 2021, found that while many petitioners received temporary orders, fewer received full protection orders.

Of the 5,512 petitions filed in Superior Court in the 18 months between January 2020 and June 2021, 78 percent resulted in a temporary order and 35 percent of petitioners obtained a full protection order.

The goal is for protection order proceedings to be accessible to self-represented petitioners, but the process set by the state can be complicated and time consuming, according to the audit. The process is a multi-step legal process, with multiple forms and a minimum of two court hearings.

According to findings in the audit, petitioners are more successful in obtaining a full order when they have an attorney or advocate, but most individuals do not have this help. Between 2016 and mid-2021, only 9 percent of petitioners – across all types of orders – had an attorney.

Advocates in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office who assist petitioners experiencing intimate partner domestic violence provided detailed filing assistance to only 11% of domestic violence protection order petitioners, and other assistance to about half of domestic violence petitioners, between January 2020 and mid-2021.

The auditors also identified racial disparities in protection order outcomes. From 2016 to mid-2021, Black and American Indian petitioners were less likely than other petitioners to obtain full protection orders. Only 33 percent of Black petitioners and 34 percent of American Indian petitioners obtained full orders, compared with 37 to 49 percent of petitioners of other races.

Even after new state requirements are implemented, auditors are concerned some barriers in King County could persist without additional improvements. Unless addressed, these types of barriers can make it difficult for individuals to navigate the process and may contribute to racial disparities in outcomes, including: limited resources to provide personalized assistance, gaps in language support for non-English speakers, inconsistent information on county websites, and lack of regular data analysis.

The auditors noted that King County Superior Court did not choose to fully participate in this audit, so they did not have the full and unrestricted access to all persons, property, and records that are granted to them by King County Code.

Instead, they based their conclusions on observations of public court proceedings, interviews with individuals in other agencies who play key roles in Superior Court’s protection order processes, and reviews of publicly available documents about Superior Court’s processes. With this approach, auditors were able to see protection order processes as a person going through the process might see them.

The county auditors recommended a number of measures and actions to improve access and remove barriers to these orders for those in need, including: a workgroup to work with stakeholders to improve the process, better data tracking for protection order outcomes, improved assistance for self-represented protection order petitioners, comprehensive state legislation on the issue, better informational resources for petitioners, and improved access and resources for non-English speaking petitioners.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

t
Hard-working, well-known Kent Police Officer Jen Prusa retires

She helped lead Neighborhood Response Team; worked 13 years in Kent after 15 years in Cowlitz County

t
Kent speaker will discuss race and racism in America

Hasan Kwame Jeffries, part of the city’s speaker series, is a history professor at Ohio State

Screenshot from Amazon.com
Kent School Board votes to reject LGBTQ book ban decision

Multiple board members mentioned a need for policy changes in the book challenge process.

t
Battle of the Badges raises money for Kent, Federal Way food banks

Police officers from each city and Puget Sound Fire compete in grocery story showdown

Tsr
Award-winning Martin Sortun Elementary School principal retires

After 21 years, Greg Kroll has retired from his award-winning role as… Continue reading

t
Kent apartment rents up 16.8% compared to June 2021

Median rents are $1,477 for a one-bedroom apartment, $1,904 for a two-bedroom

File Photo
Data released on fireworks-related injuries in Washington

Last year fireworks caused $122,000 in damage.

t
Kent School District superintendent to get $355,000 per year

School board approves 3-year contract for Israel Vela; pay higher than recent hires in Seattle, Federal Way

Most Read