Purpose & Premise

The Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council is engaging an establishing a Court Watch Program in efforts to increase access to services and safety for survivors of domestic violence in our community, as well as providing a forum for holding the justice system accountable for its handling of the provision of protective orders in Harris County. These efforts will also serve to create a more informed community.  The premise of most community court watch programs is that while judges, jurors, and court personnel want to do the right thing, having residents and citizens evaluating court proceedings encourages fairness for parties involved in court cases and makes courts accountable to the communities they serve.

Background

In 2014, HCDVCC and the Community Safety Assessment Team completed a year long process of assessing the protective order process in Harris County.  The team offered recommendations and strategies to improve the systemic response and improve survivors access to safety and resources.  Part of the process included an in depth look at the Judicial response for protective orders.  HCDVCC made many recommendations for improvements to the judicial response for victims receiving protective orders in the 280th district court.  In efforts to provide accountability, HCDVCC is establishing the court watch project to determine the impact of the recommendations that were made, and to further examine the judicial response.

The goals of HCDVCC Court Watch Program are:

  • to compile data on how domestic violence cases are handled in a given courtroom, including how the court issues orders of protection
  • to make those involved in the judicial process (judges and other court personnel) aware of the public’s interest in how courts handle domestic violence
  • to educate legislators, advocates, and the general public about court watching conclusions
  • to educate citizen volunteers about the justice system
  • to improve efforts of the coordinated community response to increase access to services and safety, hold offenders accountable, and reduce and prevent domestic violence
  • to create a more informed and involved public