Lehigh Valley

Lehigh County DA expands Domestic Violence Unit

Jim Martin says all cases will funnel through 2 attorneys in 1 courtroom.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The Lehigh County District Attorney announced changes Wednesday to the county's domestic violence unit made to benefit victims.

As of July 14, James Martin said all domestic abuse cases heard before magisterial district judges will be funnel to Lehigh County Judge Kelly Banach, who is also administrative judge of the court's criminal division.

According to Martin, all domestic cases will be heard in one courtroom and will be handled by attorneys Tonya Tharp and Ned Muir.

"The changes will mean there will be greater continuity in prosecutions, which will benefit victims," Martin said. "The reorganization takes into account the unique dynamics of domestic violence cases.

"In these types of cases, victims often are extremely vulnerable because they are financially dependent on abusers and have sustained abuse on repeated occasions for many years. They often are reluctant to report abuse, to testify in court and to follow through with prosecutions because of fear of repercussions and the upheaval it may cause in their lives," Martin added.

Martin said the two attorneys in the unit will be familiar with past domestic violence offenses and repeat offenders.

About 3.7 percent of court cases in Lehigh County are domestic violence cases, Martin said.

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