Document Type



Temporary Restraining Orders (“TROs”) provide victims of domestic violence temporary ex parte court-ordered protection against further abuse. Because the vast majority of TRO applications are filed pro se, legal and logistical hurdles often prevent deserving applicants from receiving the legal protection to which they are entitled. Chief among these hurdles is the fact that TROs do not go into effect until they are served on respondents, yet service rates are very low.

In this Article, we study the factors that affect whether judges grant ex parte TRO applications and whether the TROs are subsequently served. In particular, we evaluate the impact of a program in New Haven, Connecticut, that uses law students to provide clerical, non-legal assistance to applicants. We find that applicants assisted by Yale Law School students are no more or less likely to have their applications granted, but that student assistance is associated with a double-digit percentage point increase in in-hand service. Factors that affect grant rates include gender, judge assignment, and various severity factors like police involvement. We confirm earlier evidence that service rates of TROs are exceptionally low, and we find that in-hand service rates are relatively lower for people of color. We conclude by proposing possible reforms to law school interventions and the TRO application process that would reduce granting and service hurdles for pro se applicants.