City Attorney Pete Holmes Backtracks on Domestic Violence Policy

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Pete Holmes wins office and decides his predecessor didn't get everything wrong after all.
When City Attorney Pete Holmes was running for office last year, it seemed like he thought incumbent Tom Carr couldn't do anything right.

Holmes' portrayal of his opponent as a heavy-handed, inflexible, behind-closed-doors kind of guy fed into a backlash against Carr at a time that the former city attorney was seen as a sneakier version of his controversial predecessor, Mark Sidran. (That was before City Councilmember Tim Burgess, with his anti-panhandling proposals, became the new Sidran.)

But now that Holmes is in office, he's backtracking on at least one call for change. Holmes says he won't be moving advocates for domestic violence victims out of his office in order to ensure that they are truly independent.

Holmes began raising the issue in the latter stages of the campaign, and it became the subject of hot debate. He said that the advocates, intended to represent victims' interests as their cases move through the court system, sometimes push for "no-contact" orders that victims don't want or need. In fact, he said, such orders, which prevent husbands and wives or girlfriends and boyfriends from seeing each other, can harm families living on the economic edge. As Seattle Weekly illustrated in a cover story a few years back, both victims and defense attorneys cite this as a problem.

Carr equated Holmes' stance with being soft on domestic violence. "It really scares me," Carr said at the time.

If so, Carr can rest easy. In an interview last night after an event held by the 43rd District Democrats, Holmes said that he had only suggested during the campaign that "we should consider" moving the advocates out of the city attorney's office. Since then, he says he's talked with the advocates and realized that their independence, or lack thereof, is "the least of our problems." He did not offer further explanation, but added: "Institutions can only handle so much change at one time."

It's true that Holmes has shaken up the city attorney's office in other ways, including firing a bevy of staffers and halting marijuana prosecutions. He spoke about the latter decision last night while participating in a panel on efforts to legalize marijuana.

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