Court Watch Montgomery

Our mission.
Our passion.

Court Watch Montgomery aims to ensure that all victims of intimate partner violence in Montgomery County and throughout Maryland have access to responsive justice and vital services that will stop abuse quickly and permanently. To achieve this goal, we monitor and collect data on court hearings, recommend changes to improve policy and practice, and hold judges and court personnel accountable for providing a safe and respectful court environment.

More than 1 million Marylanders, representing every county, gender, race, economic level and sexual orientation, are projected to be victims of domestic violence at some time in their lives. We are the only organization in Maryland collecting and analyzing data about what is actually happening in domestic violence courtrooms. Our findings show that too few domestic violence victims in Maryland are obtaining comprehensive legal protection, despite our state’s strong protective order law.

Court Watch Montgomery holds county judges and other court personnel accountable for providing a safe and respectful court environment for domestic violence victims. By doing this unique work, we create a ripple effect that challenges all Maryland judges and all court personnel to use promising practices that give victims the legal tools they need most.

Our History

Prior to founding Court Watch Montgomery, Co-Founders, Laurie Duker and Judy Whiton, worked as victim advocates, helping domestic violence victims file their petitions for protective orders and accompanying them to their hearings. They became increasingly concerned about the common practices by court personnel, including clerks, bailiffs, interpreters and judges, that left victims unsafe and with insufficient legal protection.

Laurie and Judy witnessed abusers and victims being routinely sent out of court at the same time, sometimes leading to victims being harassed and assaulted. A small number of judges, bailiffs, interpreters, and clerks poisoned the court process for desperate victims, leading victims to “drop out” of the process and return to dangerous relationships. Judges failed to tell abusers they had to turn in their guns, or that it is a crime to violate a protective order and they could be sent to jail for doing so. Judges rarely granted emergency financial support, which victims needed as a bridge to independence. They knew that change was needed in the courts in order to better safeguard victims.

Instead of working with individual victims, they established Court Watch Montgomery to push for systemic changes in our courts that could help every victim. They began by collecting data in court hearings, identifying troublesome processes, creating evidence-based reports, educating court personnel, and advocating for specific reforms. Laurie and Judy understood the value of building support among other peer organizations in the county and state and how that puts pressure on courts to institute important reforms. They believed that Court Watch could serve as a bridge between the courts and community to ensure comprehensive, coordinated services, and promote joint solutions for domestic violence victims.

Since 2010, Court Watch Montgomery’s volunteers have spent thousands of observation hours in court each year. Over the years, we have successfully advocated for significant improvements in basic courthouse safety and judicial and court personnel demeanor, as well as increases in the judicial use of “best practices” that improve victim safety and sufficiency.

Fighting for justice since 2010.

Our Team

We are a dedicated team of staff members, directors, and volunteers.

Lavontte Chatmon

Executive Director

Lavontte is a visionary leader and dedicated advocate for social justice with over 15 years of experience in mental health, women’s rights, and victim services. She currently serves as a valued member of the Montgomery County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council and temporarily stepped down from the Court Watch Montgomery Board of Directors to take on the role of Interim Executive Director. In addition to her work in Montgomery County, Lavontte is actively involved in several other organizations, including the Maryland Women of Color Network and the Tahirih Justice Center’s Forced Marriage Working Group, demonstrating her commitment to issues affecting women and marginalized communities.

Amy Kass

Volunteer Coordinator

Amy specializes in the areas of employment coaching, human relations and training and holds a master’s degree in human resource development and training from John Hopkins University. Responsible for the recruitment, training and retention of over fifty local volunteers, she finds it rewarding to recruit and build relationships with volunteers whose values and skills are in alignment with the mission of Court Watch Montgomery. She has worked as a human resources professional, employment coach, victim advocate, bilingual community health promoter and advocate for the Latino community and minority at-risk populations. She has used her foreign language, mediation and cross-cultural skills to work with ethnically and culturally diverse populations in universities, hospitals, international business and the nonprofit sector.

Silas Stephens

Data Manager & Analyst

Silas oversees all aspects of Court Watch’s data and provides analyses for reports. Ensuring the accuracy of our data starts with thorough training and supplemental instructions. Silas conducts training sessions for monitors and data entry volunteers, attends Court with new monitors, and is always available to answer questions. He also conducts quality control of both the forms and data entries.  Mr. Stephens graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Sociology. While at University of Maryland, Mr. Stephens was a research assistant in both the Sociology and Criminology and Criminal Justice departments. He also completed an honor’s thesis highlighting a gap in intimate partner violence research due to the historical exclusion of LGBTQIA+ subpopulations.

April Jones

Bookkeeper

April has worked in the field of accounting for over 10 years. She holds a Master’s degree in accounting from Nova Southeastern University. She has worked as a financial officer and finance officer with numerous nonprofit organizations and assisted in audit compliance of grants. April handles Court Watch’s accounting and compliance with all state and federal regulations.

Board of Directors

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John Ford

President

Karin-Green

Karin Green

Member

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Ginna Ingram

Member

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Karen Spar

Member

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Janet Rosenbaum

Member

judy

Judy Whiton

Member & Co-Founder

Volunteers

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Volunteers are the heart and soul of our effort. With the help of our volunteers, we have successfully advocated for much needed changes.

There is much more to be done. We would love for you to join us!

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Section Title

Guns and Domestic Abusers: Protective Orders and Gun Removal in Montgomery County, Maryland

Recognizing the extreme danger of guns in domestic violence situations, and the risk to victim safety posed by the Rahimi case, we believe it is timely to report on relevant laws in Maryland and...

2023 Staggered Exit Supplement: Montgomery County District Court Increased Use of Staggered Exits in Intimate Partner Violence Hearings from 2022 to 2023

Staggered exits are a nationally recognized best practice intended to keep victims safe, allowing them to leave the courtroom first after a protective order hearing, with their alleged offender...

2022 Yearly Report: Protective Order Outcomes

Civil protection orders are intended to protect victims of domestic violence by directing abusive partners to stop harming or threatening them and, in most cases, to stay away from them for the...

Staggered Exit Report: Montgomery County District Courts Fail to Consistently Implement Recommended Safety Practice

Staggered exits are a nationally recognized best practice intended to keep victims safe, allowing them to leave the courtroom first after a protective order hearing, with their alleged offender...

COVID Impact Report: Intimate Partner Violence and the Montgomery County Courts during the COVID Pandemic

This report discusses some nationwide and local information on what is known about the impact of COVID on intimate partner violence (IPV). It then describes the experience of CWM in remotely...

Court Watch Executive Director Job Announcement

Executive Director Job Announcement COURT WATCH MONTGOMERY (CWM) is seeking a new EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR (ED) to provide vision, energy and leadership in our efforts to make systemic improvements/changes...

Court Watch Montgomery is looking for new Board Members!

Are you passionate about making Montgomery County a safer place to live? Do you have an interest in or personal connection to intimate partner violence? We are looking for new board members to join...

Snapshot of Domestic Violence Protective Orders in Montgomery County during COVID-19

This informational report provides a brief summary of the number of Protective Orders granted in 2019 and 2020 in Montgomery County, at the height of COVID-19. It demonstrates that during court...

Snapshot of Domestic Violence Protective Orders in Maryland during COVID-19

This informational report provides a brief summary of the number of Protective Orders granted in 2019 and 2020, at the height of COVID-19. It demonstrates that during court closures, while their...

Section Title

Guns and Domestic Abusers: Protective Orders and Gun Removal in Montgomery County, Maryland

Recognizing the extreme danger of guns in domestic violence situations, and the risk to victim safety posed by the Rahimi case, we believe it is timely to report on relevant laws in Maryland and...

2023 Staggered Exit Supplement: Montgomery County District Court Increased Use of Staggered Exits in Intimate Partner Violence Hearings from 2022 to 2023

Staggered exits are a nationally recognized best practice intended to keep victims safe, allowing them to leave the courtroom first after a protective order hearing, with their alleged offender...

2022 Yearly Report: Protective Order Outcomes

Civil protection orders are intended to protect victims of domestic violence by directing abusive partners to stop harming or threatening them and, in most cases, to stay away from them for the...

Staggered Exit Report: Montgomery County District Courts Fail to Consistently Implement Recommended Safety Practice

Staggered exits are a nationally recognized best practice intended to keep victims safe, allowing them to leave the courtroom first after a protective order hearing, with their alleged offender...

COVID Impact Report: Intimate Partner Violence and the Montgomery County Courts during the COVID Pandemic

This report discusses some nationwide and local information on what is known about the impact of COVID on intimate partner violence (IPV). It then describes the experience of CWM in remotely...

Court Watch Executive Director Job Announcement

Executive Director Job Announcement COURT WATCH MONTGOMERY (CWM) is seeking a new EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR (ED) to provide vision, energy and leadership in our efforts to make systemic improvements/changes...

Court Watch Montgomery is looking for new Board Members!

Are you passionate about making Montgomery County a safer place to live? Do you have an interest in or personal connection to intimate partner violence? We are looking for new board members to join...

Snapshot of Domestic Violence Protective Orders in Montgomery County during COVID-19

This informational report provides a brief summary of the number of Protective Orders granted in 2019 and 2020 in Montgomery County, at the height of COVID-19. It demonstrates that during court...

Snapshot of Domestic Violence Protective Orders in Maryland during COVID-19

This informational report provides a brief summary of the number of Protective Orders granted in 2019 and 2020, at the height of COVID-19. It demonstrates that during court closures, while their...