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Starting immediately, domestic violence complaints in New Jersey may be filed electronically, and temporary restraining orders obtained, on nights and weekends, when the courts are closed. The state Supreme Court announced Monday the statewide expansion of a pilot program known as E-TRO, which began in 2002 and is used in 38 municipalities. E-TRO calls for relaxation of certain court rules to allow electronic signatures of judges and complainants on nights and weekends, and it allows for complaints to appear immediately on court databases. Night and weekend filings make up about 40 percent of domestic violence cases, court officials say. “The greatest advantage of the new system is that the order is immediately on the central registry for service and enforcement,” said Harry Cassidy, assistant director for family practice at the Administrative Office of the Courts. “The second factor is that it reduces the burden on the police and reduces data entry.” The procedure goes like this: • A police officer interviews the complainant at the police station, completes the complaint and proposed temporary restraining order on a dedicated computer terminal and enters the complainant’s name electronically in lieu obtaining the complainant’s signature and then faxing it. • The police officer contacts an on-call municipal judge, who takes sworn testimony by telephone. If the judge issues a temporary restraining order, the officer enters the judge’s name on the order electronically, making it immediately enforceable and ready to be served and allowing a hearing to be scheduled sooner. • The police officer transmits the documents to a computer server that interfaces with the judiciary’s Domestic Violence Central Registry and the Family Automated Case Tracking System. E-TRO is more direct and therefore faster than the current practice for night and weekend filings, by which an officer must write out a complaint, fax it to the judiciary the next business day and wait for a court employee to input the complaint manually. To make the E-TRO system work, the judiciary eased several rules on domestic violence restraining orders. R. 1:44-4(c) was relaxed to make an electronic signature of the complainant in typewritten form the equivalent of a faxed signature. R. 5:7A(b) was relaxed to allow the officer to electronically enter the judge’s and complainant’s names on the temporary restraining order form. And R. 4:42-1(e) was relaxed to allow electronic signatures of a Superior Court or municipal judge for a temporary restraining order. Statewide implementation will take about six months, depending on how soon the judiciary can complete training for police officers, Cassidy said. Officers will find E-TRO is similar to a program for electronic filing of criminal complaints, known as E-CDR, adopted statewide in March 2006, Cassidy said. E-CDR allows summons and complaint data to be entered electronically and transmitted to the municipal courts’ Automated Complaint System database or Superior Court’s Promis/Gavel system. It replaced preprinted forms that were typed or filled out by hand and then entered into the database by clerical workers. This article originally appeared in the New Jersey Law Journal , a publication of ALM. •

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