Who We Are

Court Watch Montgomery is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization. We fight domestic violence by working to improve the process that abuse victims move through in our county courts. We monitor restraining hearings and document where things are working well, and where there are problems. We recommend innovative approaches gleaned from other judicial systems and from recent research.

Our Goals
  • Impartially monitor and evaluate Maryland’s domestic violence justice system.

  • Make judicial personnel aware of the public’s interest in how domestic violence cases are handled by the court.

  • Report regularly to judges, court administrators, county advisory boards, local non-profits, the media, and the public on our findings and recommendations.

  • Educate Maryland citizens about domestic violence in our county and the role of the local judiciary.

Why We're Concerned

Many aspects of the court system work well, but based on years of work in the county courts, we have witnessed systematic problems that can leave domestic violence victims and their children vulnerable, discourage victims from seeking court protection, or fail to hold abusers accountable. For example:

  • Many abusers are never told they may go to jail if they violate a restraining order, thus eliminating any deterrent effect.

  • Some judges, interpreters, clerks or bailiffs at times treat domestic violence victims rudely, in ways that can discourage these women from seeking further protection from the courts.

  • Victims are sometimes sent out of the courtroom, and then the courthouse, only yards from their abuser.

  • Almost three quarters of petitioners and respondents come to court without counsel. They often have questions about their rights and options that are not answered in full.

What's New

New report out today on Circuit Court's practices in domestic violence cases (November, 2013)

Protection for victims of domestic violence in Montgomery County’s Circuit Court
[Read or download just the executive summary]

Court Watch Montgomery issues second report

Just "A Piece of Paper?" : Domestic Violence Peace and Protective Orders in Montgomery County District Courts

Court Watch Montgomery issued it's first major report, Oct. 3, 2011

"Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence in Montgomery County: Challenges and Opportunities with Protective and Peace Orders"

Court Watch Montgomery's Executive Director and many of the volunteers who monitor protective and peace order hearings. Press conference on first report, Oct. 3, 2011.
Press coverage of report

Encouraging changes at the district courthouses

Montgomery County district courts have evaluated our findings and recommendations (click here to download) and have made some significant changes.

Our suggestion for safe exits for victims from court, “staggered exits”, has been quickly implemented, but needs to be more consistently applied.

Clerks at each courthouse now play an audio recording in English and Spanish before the judge takes the bench. The audio explains what will happen in court and provides helpful information, such as how to appeal a case and how to get a cd of your hearing.

Reaction to our first study has been tremendous

State court personnel expressed appreciation for the study and sent it to every district court judge in the state. Some of the recommendations will apparently be incorporated into new judge and bailiff training state-wide.

Citizens in numerous other Maryland counties have expressed interest in setting up local court watch programs. We are glad to strategize, advise, and train other groups, however we recognize every county is unique.

In Other News...

  • Court Watch Montgomery has observed over 1,000 restraining order hearings since January, 2011.

  • Volunteers have contributed over 1,400 hours of their time.

  • We’re hard at work on an interim report that looks at what’s been happening at the Rockville and Silver Spring courthouses in the last six months. Stay tuned!

  • more...