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In 1982, the Illinois legislature passed the Illinois Domestic Violence Act (the Act) and most recently passed an updated version in 2012. This Article examines how the specialized domestic violence courthouse in Chicago implements these laws.

Where the courthouse falls short, this Article will explore why, what can be done, and consider implications for other jurisdictions seeking to implement similar resources for survivors of domestic violence. The results from this empirical study are mixed. On the positive side, the data reflect that judges are properly applying many important aspects of the new order of protection laws and granting a high percentage of emergency orders of protection. The data also reflect that judges fail to grant certain important remedies, even when survivors seek the remedies and appear to meet the statutory requirements to receive them. Judges also fail to specify reasons for their denial of certain remedies when issuing an order of protection, notwithstanding that the Act requires that an order of protection include an explanation for a denial of any sought remedies. This Article argues that these failures are a form of judicial nullification, judicial refusal to fairly interpret the law. Counter-intuitively, this problem may be exacerbated by the specialized nature of this domestic violence-focused court. A second important finding is that the vast majority of petitioners are pro se, and they often fail to seek some of the remedies under the protective legislation implicated by their factual situation.