changes would also provide more equity to petitioners and respondents involved in these cases. With renewed confidence and comfort toward the legal process of obtaining a protective order and the treatment they receive in
the courtroom, more victims of domestic violence will likely come forward,
taking steps to improve their individual situation and the overall picture of
domestic violence in the United States today.
These best practices recommended to the courts through court watch
programs complement the current programs used in Maryland well, as they
supplement the services available to the victim and create a fair and respectful courtroom environment. There are virtually no barriers to implementation, since the practices can be implemented at no cost, and only require a
change in procedure and behavior in the court to work. However, changing
judicial behavior can sometimes be an uphill battle. Ideally, judges and others who work within the court system will see the value in implementing
these changes and will do so without much argument. For others, it may be
necessary to have the Chief Judge strongly recommend that these practices
Implementing more court watch programs across the country would take
some time, but may not take a lot of money. Using volunteers, either from
the community, support groups, or local colleges, universities and professional schools, could provide the monitors for courtroom observations at
little to no cost.
84 Once positive change is created within the courts because
of court watch programs, other jurisdictions can follow the existing models
and implement them on their own.
While the previously-mentioned programs within the Maryland court
system are in place, they work independently and often compound the burden on the victim. Court watch programs tie all of the available resources
and programs together to help victims. The programs encourage judges to
ensure that victims know of and how to make best use of the resources
available to them. When courts are monitored through court watch programs, judicial behavior tends to be more consistent, which helps victims
feel empowered and protected against retribution from their abusers. This
facilitates victims to better trust the judicial system. Implementing more
court watch programs both in Maryland and across the country would create
more consistency in handling domestic violence cases. If the volunteer
method is used to staff the court watch programs, they can be easily implemented in existing court proceedings and programs.
84. For example, students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore were court watch
monitors for credit in one of their classes at either the Francis King Carey School of Law or
the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Students signed up for a specific number
of hours per week to observe, and that time was taken into consideration when calculating
their clinical hours.