Monitoring the Law: Court Watch Programs in
Traditionally, domestic violence has been treated as a women’s issue, not
the public health problem it is. This national problem affects the health and
well-being of people across all demographics of this country.
1 The Mary-
land court system is failing victims of domestic violence. In some cases,
these victims do not report the crime to the police out of fear of repercus-
sions from the abuser; in other cases, a lack of trust in the criminal justice
system alienates victims. Throughout the process, victims may feel alone
and unprotected. One way the state could address this issue is by more
widely implementing court watch programs, which train volunteers to ob-
serve judicial behavior in court and complete a record of the case and be-
havior of judges, bailiffs and other court staff.
2 Program administrators then
compile these records and typically prepare a report discussing the con-
sistency of the judges’ behavior, best practices observed, and recommenda-
tions for improvement, to disseminate to judges in that jurisdiction.
3 Part II
discusses domestic violence as a public health concern and the need for pol-
icy change within the court system. Part III discusses how the current sys-
tem is failing domestic violence victims in Maryland. Part IV reviews court
watch programs as a potential solution to increase the consistency of judi-
cial behavior and provide increased protections to victims in domestic vio-
M.P.P., Program Manager for the Center for Tobacco Regulation, Litigation, and Advocacy, Women, Leadership & Equality Program, and the Public Health Law Network - Eastern
Region, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.
1. See Univ. of Mich., About Domestic Violence: Understanding Abuse,
http://hr.umich.edu/stopabuse/about/understanding.html (last visited May 22, 2014).
2. See Laurie Duker & Judy Whiton, Court Watch Montgomery, Protecting Victims of
Domestic Violence in Montgomery County: Challenges and Opportunities with Protective
and Peace Orders
3. See, e.g., id. at 51.