Does Yolo County Need a Family Justice Center?

Former DA Jean Jordan criticizes the lack of leadership in Yolo County
Former DA Jean Jordan criticizes the lack of leadership in Yolo County

On Sunday, the 21st annual Northern California Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Conference was held in the Veteran’s Memorial in Davis. The focus was on the Quincy Solution, best practices that dramatically reduce domestic violence crime and child abuse.

One of the speakers on Sunday was Jean Jordan, who was both a former Deputy District Attorney and a former Assistant Public Defender in Yolo County. As a representative of the California District Attorneys Association, Ms. Jordan was a chief proponent of a Family Justice Center in Yolo County.

Ms. Jordan, who no longer works in Yolo County, said that one of the key premises was that the “leadership has to be committed.” She said “If you look around the room, there are a lot of great people here today, but there’s a lot of people who should be here that aren’t here. It’s really about who isn’t here today than is here today. That’s the problem in Yolo County right now.”

Ms. Jordan argued that, without that commitment, we would not have success and “family justice centers are something that have shown a great deal of success.”

“We don’t have one here in Yolo County,” she said, despite claims that we do and efforts going back to 2009 to bring one here. “I served on that board and that task force for a significant amount of time, Yolo County like many other counties has been talking about a family justice center for a long time.”

“It never really seems to get off the ground, it never really seems to go anywhere,” she said. “It’s because we don’t really have the leadership.” She said that there is lot of talk, “but nothing happens.”

Jean Jordan called a family justice center “one type of community response.” One of the problems is that victims of domestic violence or sexual assault have to go through an intricate maze of organizations and agencies in order to get services. One study, she said, found 22 different locations in Yolo County alone.

“The main idea behind a family justice center is that… we don’t make these folks that are in chaos and turmoil, traumatized, go to 22 locations – we bring those twenty locations to one spot – so it’s a one stop shop,” she explained.

One problem in this county, Jean Jordan said, is “[t]here is a thought that family justice centers can be too law enforcement centric.” She said, “That can be too, sometimes it’s easier for law enforcement to run family justice centers.”

There are also people who are reluctant to come to a family justice center with a bunch of police officers running around. Jean Jordan acknowledged that was “a reasonable fear” but argued “that’s not a reason not to have a family justice center.” She added, “Well they might not want to come, so let’s not have one.”

The conversation she wants to have is how to make a family justice center, or similar organization, be the type of place that people do want to come to.

Learn more about the Family Court Crisis at the Vanguard’s May 9 event: “Family Court Crisis: Who Will Protect The Children”

Then Jean Jordan really laid the cards on the table from her perspective.

“In Yolo County, the bench won’t come to the table,” she said meaning the judges. “They won’t come to the table because they think they have a conflict of interest. I don’t see how it’s a conflict of interest for judges to want to do something in their community.”

She said, “I worked in Yolo County at a time when the judges were very involved in these issues.” She said, “They did amazing things and they really didn’t care what anyone thought about how they were running their courtrooms.”

“Our bench won’t participate because our public defender won’t participate,” Ms. Jordan continued. “Our public defender won’t participate because she says we don’t have any money for programs to serve offenders. We’re not doing anything to change offenders behavior, and until we do that, she’s not going to come to the table.”

Jean Jordan said that the public defender won’t come to the table because of that and the judges won’t come to the table unless the public defender comes to the table.

“So now, where are we going, we’re going nowhere,” she said. “We’re not having a conversation that matters.”

“Maybe she’s right, maybe we should have some programs and some things that we should be doing around offender work,” Ms. Jordan offered. She said that is a conversation she would like to have – but that’s not a conversation that’s happening.

“Our sheriff has been as committed as anyone in this community to this movement,” she added. “But the sheriff can’t do it by himself.

Ms. Jordan noted that some of the non-profits in this county refuse to participate in a family justice center. “They don’t want to participate because they’re afraid it will take grant money away from their program should the family justice center start applying for some grants,” she said. “They will tell you that they already do a family justice center, that they are a family justice center. They provide all of the services already that a family justice center would do.”

Jean Jordan said one point that needs emphasis is that “no one wants to prosecute a misdemeanor domestic violence case – they’re the hardest cases to prove, but I learned over the years that they are the most important cases.”

She said, “Those are the ones that you need to pay the most attention to. What they really are is this really tiny window into this really big situation.” And right now those cases go to the youngest and least experienced prosecutors.

A point that Barry Goldstein, the keynote speaker, made is that so many of the people in prison came from homes with domestic violence. So he believes that if you take domestic violence cases more seriously, you can gain a window into reducing crime overall.

More on that later this week.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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16 thoughts on “Does Yolo County Need a Family Justice Center?”

  1. zaqzaq

    One way to get the public defender on board is to get the board of supervisors on board since she is an at will employee of the county.  The intrigue of corrupt politics in the criminal justice system, cowardly judges, greedy non-profits and the public defender who needs weak and under served victims who are more easily attacked by her attorneys.  It is much easier to defend her clients when the victims do not receive all of the services that are available to them.  Sounds like the real conflict of interest is with the public defender.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I think that would be a mistake to compel the public defender to participate. I think she has reasonable concerns – even Jean Jordan agreed. The public defender’s job is to represent her clients. I support the note of a FJC, but not sure that the public defender has to play a key role in the consolidation of services to victims.

  2. zaqzaq

    According to Jordan the public defender is keeping the judges out of the process by insisting on improved services for her clients.  Her clients are not the victims.  She should not have a role in victim services as there is a clear conflict.  From the article it appears that the public defender is mucking up the process, trying to extort benefits for her clients in order to support the concept of a FJC.  The public defender appears to be ethically challenged in this article.

    1. Davis Progressive

      i believe you are misconstruing this.  the public defender has chosen not to participate in the justice center unless there is something in it for her clients – that makes sense.

      the judges for reasons that i only partially understand do not want to participate in it if it appears only supported by the da’s.  that also makes sense.

      but the public defender is not preventing the judges from doing it actively, only because of their non-participation.

      there is nothing ethically challenged about that.  why should the public dfender’s office participate in a program that is designed to only benefit victims?

      1. hpierce

        “unless there is something in it for her clients – that makes sense.”  Ok, using that logic, Davis planners are responsible only to the developers.  Nice.  One of the problems that government workers face are they have multiple “client” responsibilities… those citizens/developers who are paying their wages, and using their services, and the community as a whole.  Private sector has no such dilemma.  

        Have known a lot of good public employees who have to balance individual vs. community good a lot.  Unless they are extremely thick-skinned, when they operate under the “high ethics”, they tend to burn out over time.

        Seems like the the public defender has simplified their dilemma.  Good for their MH, not so much for the community.

        1. Davis Progressive

          those are not remotely comparable situations.  davis planners do not represent the developers.  they work for the city.  public defenders are court appointed attorneys for defendants.  they represent the interests of the defendants and only the defendants.

        2. hpierce

          DP… who pays for their services?  The public?  NOT.

          You say they are serving the defendants? Who pays for those services? Are you truly advocating that the victims of crime should bear the cost burden of the attorneys trying to get guilty defendants off the hook?

        3. hpierce

          DP… another tack… if a public defender finds out that their client is a definite threat to society, they try to “win” and get the client off the hook?  Another reason I could not be an attorney.  To you, probably “all pays the same”.  Another form of prostitution, IMO.

          Will now, “disengage”

        4. Davis Progressive

          the job of an attorney is to represent the interests of their client.  it is someone else’s job to determine if their client is a threat to society.

        5. hpierce

          Will make one final comment, DP (yeah, didn’t intend to,but…)

          Ok, the city planner’s wages and benefits are paid for by the developer, but they represent the public/city (your view, which I can partially refute).

          A Public Defender is paid by the public, but only responsible to the defendant (who, in many cases, acted against public interests).

          You’re absolutely right.  The analogy I made is so wrong.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Hpierce: I think the main difference is that the public defender is appointed to represent the specific interests of their clients just as a private attorney would.

  3. David Greenwald Post author

    I’m a little concerned that the tone here has taken that the Public Defender is acting improperly here.  Even Jean Jordan was in agreement with this point that the Public Defender’s request is reasonable.  I was also told that Jean Jordan hasn’t been involved in a year and some progress has been made on this front.

    1. zaqzaq


      Get over the tone.  Next thing you will be defending Ray Rice.  If solutions require all of the justice partners to include the courts, DA, public defender, probation and law enforcement to sit at the table to work together to better serve this county then they should all be participating.  The public defender is a county employee who is tasked with defending the guilty and sometimes the innocent.  This may put her at odds with anything that makes her job more difficult.  But as a county employee it would seem that the county would have an interest in all of the county employees working together to create a more efficient justice system provides better services for the citizens of this county.  If that means better services for victims she should be participating.  Not participating shows a lack of empathy for victims by a county employee.  We could do better.  If the courts will not engage the Sheriff or DA without the participation of the public defender due to a perceived conflict of interest and the public defender will not participate unless the public defender can extort greater services for the criminals as part of the deal the public defender is part of the problem, not part of the solution.  How is the tone to hard on the public defender.   She works for the county.  If the board thinks this is an important concept they could direct her to participate.  It is against the interest of wife beaters throughout the county if the abused women receive services that empower them to defend themselves against those who abuse them.  The abusers just happen to be the clients of the public defenders office.  Weak victims are easier to attack on the stand or to be coerced back into the home if the abuser also is the wage earner.  If these centers provide greater support in the areas of housing, legal and counseling services for example they are good for our community as a whole, just not the smaller community of wife beaters that the public defender represents.



      1. Tia Will


        The public defender is a county employee who is tasked with defending the guilty and sometimes the innocent. ”

        I think that this is a factual misrepresentation of the job of the public defender. The role of the public defender is to represent the accused. One of the basic precepts of our court system is that an accused is by definition innocent until proven guilty, namely found guilty in a court of law during which it is their right to representation. To make the assumption, as you seem to be doing that guilt and innocence somehow can be discerned outside of the court of law is a distortion not only of the role of the public defender but also of a basic precept of our legal system.

        1. zaqzaq


          At the end of the day the accused are either guilty, innocent or a third option in that they committed the crime and the DA could not prove it which I suspect you would call innocent.  OJ fits in the third category in my mind.  My statement that the public defender “is tasked with defending the guilty and sometimes the innocent” reflects the reality that the vast majority of those charged with a crime are convicted of a crime either through a plea bargain or trial.  Very few are actually innocent.  Most walk out of the courthouse a convicted criminal when there case is concluded.  Many who are not convicted probably still committed the crime but it could not be proven.  A much smaller percentage were wrongly accused of committing a crime an had nothing to do with it.  In my mind that is probably a fairly small percentage.  What would be really interesting to know is how many cases or what percentage of the all of the cases referred to the DA by law enforcement where never charged with a crime and taken to court by the DA.  

          My understanding is that the public defender is appointed when the defendant shows up for court the first time.  I am not sure where you get the concept that I believe that the outcome for a criminal case is going to be determined outside of the courthouse.  A victim’s willingness or ability to participate in the prosecution can very well be impacted by conduct outside of the courtroom.  How willing and able is the victim of domestic violence to participate in the prosecution if the defendant is the sole bread winner for the household and kicks her out of the home or cuts off financial support for the victim.  Where doe the now broke and homeless victim go for support.?  She gets bought off due to a financial incentive.  If the abuser is in jail he also is not making money to pay the bills.  Domestic violence cases with the victim under economic duress are much easier to defend.  Hence the public defender’s incentive to not play nice for the societal good.  Just look at those rich NFL players avoiding convictions.  The women are bought off.

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