Assistant Professor Lisa Martin, who leads the University of South Carolina School of Law’s domestic violence clinic, was named one of eight 2021-22 Bellow Scholars by the Association of American Law Schools for her project exploring the intersection of two of South Carolina’s most intractable problems: the inaccessibility of civil justice and domestic violence.
It is the latest recognition for her project, which has received multiple university grants and awards and seeks to fill in gaps in statewide data that have heretofore posed a significant obstacle to understanding the full extent and contours of the problem of domestic violence in South Carolina. In fact, the Governor’s Task Force on Domestic Violence has previously indicated that a lack of data has prevented the group from identifying best practices and gaps in court and criminal justice system responses to domestic violence.
The study will review cases seeking Orders of Protection, Restraining Orders, Permanent Restraining Orders, and Emergency Restraining Orders filed in the state in 2019. Each of these have different sets of eligibility criteria, offer different types of relief, and must be sought from three different courts. While no personal information will be included, certain demographic categories will be available, such as characteristics of personal identity, relationship with the opposing party, income and geography.
By compiling all of this data to create a clear picture of the segment of the public seeking civil legal intervention from abuse in the state, Martin hopes to provide a comprehensive understanding of the availability of these civil injunctive remedies and how effective they are at responding to domestic violence in South Carolina. She also hopes to discover other patterns, including who is requesting what types of protection, and identifying similarities among people who initially seek court intervention, but dismiss their cases before a final ruling is made.
“South Carolina has ranked far too high in rates of domestic violence and lack of access to justice for people in poverty. It is critical to understand the accessibility of our established civil remedies for domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, as well as their efficacy at responding to and protecting against further abuse,” says Martin.
“Through this study, we can identify opportunities to improve civil legal protections for those subjected to abuse.”
Martin will be working with Jessica Pomerantz, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology, who is creating tools that will be used to organize the data.
Financial support for the project comes from:
- The Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough Center on Professionalism at the School of Law, which is supporting the pilot study,
- A university ASPIRE grant, which will support data collection, and
- The Josephine Abney Faculty Fellowship Award for Research in Women’s and Gender Studies, from the university’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program, which will support the collection, coding and processing of data.
The Bellow Scholar Program selects scholars every two years to recognize and support innovative research proposals designed to improve the quality of justice in communities, enhance the delivery of legal services, and promote economic and social justice. The program supports scholars who employ empirical analysis, connect research to advocacy, and involve substantial collaboration between law and other academic disciplines. Selected projects become the focus of information sharing, discussion, and critique at the annual AALS Clinical Conference and at annual workshops organized by the committee.