Judge applauded for efforts to curb domestic violence

by Tom Kirvan
Legal News

There is a poster, designed to heighten awareness of domestic violence, that fairly sums up 48th District Judge Diane D’Agostini’s approach to the pervasive problem.

In it is the image of a woman, covered with bruises. The message: ‘Don’t apply make-up. Apply the law.”’

“This has been my stance since I began work with the (Oakland County) Prosecutor’s Office and now as a member of the District Court bench,” D’Agostini said, just days after she was honored with the Domestic Violence Prevention Award.

The honor was presented by the Oakland County Coordinating Council Against Domestic Violence, an organization that was founded in 1994 “in order to develop and sustain a coordinated, broad-based community response” to the problem, according to Circuit Court Judge Edward Sosnick, who was among the featured speakers at the recent awards ceremony.

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca nominated D’Agostini for the award, praising her as someone who “stands up for victims who often lack the strength and fortitude to defend themselves” in domestic violence situations.

“This year’s voting for the Council’s judicial award was unanimous,” Gorcyca said in presenting the award. “For the last 20 years, Judge D’Agostini has dedicated her career to public service and to the justice system...

“As a result of Judge D’Agostini’s intricate knowledge and understanding of domestic violence cases – not only are victims safer, but equally important, batterers’ recidivism has been reduced,” Gorcyca added. “The cycle of violence often ends right in Judge D’Agostini’s courtroom. Her commitment and participation in the criminal  justice system has made our community a better one to live, work, and raise a family.”

Now in her second term on the District Court bench, D’Agostini served as an assistant prosecutor in Oakland County from 1991-2000, eventually becoming chief of the Parole Appeal Section, helping block the “release of numerous violent prisoners, including murderers, child molesters, and other dangerous” felons.

She was elected to the 48th District Court bench in 2000, and again in2006.

A graduate of Wayne State University where she majored in journalism, D’Agostini earned her juris doctor with honors from the former Detroit College of Law, furthering her legal studies at Oxford University in England.

She has taken pride in offering an annual program for area fourth-graders titled, “Order in the Court.”  The program gives students a first-hand look at the judicial system in a “simple and age appropriate manner, featuring a mock trial staged by the students,” explained D’Agostini, who has two children.

She also has devoted much of her energy “to educating our youth about the dangers of underage drinking and drug use,” holding court sessions at area schools so that students can “view the direct ramifications of drug and alcohol use.”

Yet, for all her work in the criminal justice system, Judge D’Agostini said she continues to be especially mindful of the challenges posed by domestic violence cases.

“I encourage all families to be attentive and supportive to those who suffer at the hands of abusive individuals,” she said. “No one can go it alone in these situations. There needs to be a support system in place, and we are fortunate to have a law enforcement community here that is tuned in to the problem and ready and able to help.”

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper also was among the featured speakers at the awards ceremony earlier this month that included a keynote address by Julie Ladwig, a domestic violence survivor who told a harrowing story of enduring more than 19 years of “verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse” by her former husband.

“I was in this fog for years,” Ladwig said of the abusive relationship. “It was hard to determine what was right or wrong.”

Ladwig herself was a recipient of the Domestic Violence Prevention Award for volunteer efforts on behalf of victims.

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