Domestic violence victims in Cumberland County will soon be able to file for emergency protective orders electronically without having to go to the downtown Fayetteville courthouse.
Starting June 4, two sites — including one on Fort Bragg — will be available for victims to have a video conference with a District Court judge. Fort Bragg is one of the first installations in the country to incorporate electronic filing for service members, their families and civilian workers, according to Cumberland County Chief District Court Judge Robert Stiehl.
"The ability to file electronically is the court system of the future," Stiehl said in a statement. "By example, this project will alleviate a parent at Fort Bragg from having to load the car with children, drive the 12 miles to the courthouse and back, and shuffle between multiple offices to initiate a domestic violence civil protective suit."
Subsequent hearings would be at the Cumberland County Courthouse.
The two sites for this pilot program are Army Community Services on post and the Rape Crisis office at 519 Ramsey St. Advocates for victims will help them prepare the electronically filed documents, recommend community resources and help with the video conference. The service will be available weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Victims need to arrive by 1 p.m.
A Safelink Office in Room 340 at the Courthouse is still available for walk-ins during normal business hours, Stiehl said.
Criminal cases must be initiated through a magistrate or law enforcement.
Cumberland County had about 1,860 civil domestic violence protective cases filed during the last calendar year, Stiehl said. That averages to about seven per workday. The record high was 2,250 cases in 2012.
The county has an average of 2,000 to 2,500 misdemeanor and felony cases each year.
Six other counties already have e-filing programs.
The agencies involved in launching the program here are Fort Bragg and Army Community Services, Clerk of Court Lisa Scales, Sheriff Ennis Wright, Rape Crisis, the Administrative Office of the Courts and the District Court judges' office.