What is Court Watch?
Court watch is a volunteer-based presence in courtrooms to observe legal proceedings. Court hearings are public, but many folks have never seen the inside of the courtroom. We highlight the reality of our legal system by recording data and stories, finding trends in the system, and presenting our findings to the general public.
Why Court Watch?
Court watching is a tool used in a greater campaign — there are many ways to court watch. Different programs might focus on specific laws, court actors, duration of hearings, the severity of charges, conditions of release, use of terminology, personal accounts of defendants, etc. The greater campaign determines the details of individual court watch programs it will be used in. We plan to focus on arraignment court to collect data that will reveal any overt or implicit bias in the bail setting process as well as look for accountability in the use of WA CrR 3.2 and the bail affordability mandate.
How Will It Work?
Volunteers will watch court sessions in-person or over Zoom and record significant details of each decision made by the judge (such as specific charges, racial background of the person being charged, whether they have a public defender, whether they are homeless), and that data will be moved into a spreadsheet for analysis and eventual publication.
How Can I Court Watch?
If you are interested in virtual court watching in SMC or in-person at another court, please fill out our Volunteer Interest Form and NCBF will reach out with extra details. We are very excited to relaunch this much-needed program to aid in ending pre-trial detention and look forward to working with you.
This is running on volunteer labor – there is lots to do! We need volunteers to help:
- train for and do court watch shifts
- conduct data analysis in prep for publication