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.

Leslie Hawes

Executive Director

Leslie is a legal professional who has recently relocated to Montgomery County. She spent the first ten years of her career as a corporate attorney in federal and state litigation. She then dedicated the last fifteen years to nonprofit work having actively served on numerous boards of directors, including the board of the Midwest Innocence Project. She has also been a consultant to CEOs of numerous nonprofits, including a large medical clinic providing care to economically disadvantaged groups. Leslie also previously served as a court-appointed special advocate working with teens in foster care.

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


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.

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Board of Directors


Dinara Akhmetova



John Ford



Karin Green



Ginna Ingram



Karen Spar



Janet Rosenbaum



Judy Whiton

Member & Co-Founder



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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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