Court accountability is an essential aspect of a vibrant democracy. Yet a lot of the important work that our state courts do is almost invisible to the average citizen. Maryland courts handle protective orders for domestic violence victims, hold abusers responsible for criminal misdemeanors and felonies, and ensure that justice is fair, impartial, and available to all. Much of this work is never reported on.
That’s why Court Watch provides training for community members about current domestic violence laws and the obligations of our courts. With 30-40 people from all walks of life watching hundreds of civil and criminal domestic violence dockets each year, Court Watch is able to identify where our courts are excelling and where they are falling short in ensuring full protection for victims under Maryland and federal law.
Maryland currently has no system for judicial evaluations by all those who use our courts, but there are some exciting models across the country. Such a program can improve judicial incentives to be respectful and to ensure that parties understand the decisions they make. These programs ensure that voters have useful information on judges before they head to the polls.