Every week, Court Watch Montgomery volunteers watch and collect data in protective order court in Silver Spring and Rockville.  Here are some of their notes on recent cases:

  • “No Amharic interpreter was available for an initial temporary hearing. The judge requested testimony from both parties, regardless. (He could have asked the clerk to get an interpreter on the phone who could obtain key information from the parties once put on speaker.) The judge was snide to the Respondent, who orally answered “yes” to a question while shaking his head no.”
  • “The judge allowed the respondent to leave to put money in his meter before the case was called. He said ‘I don’t want you to get a ticket. It’s $40.’ The judge told one of the respondent’s witnesses who was not called to testify, ‘Thank you for coming to court.’ “
  • “The judge gave Family Justice Center and House of Ruth brochures to the petitioner. He asked the petitioner if she had a safety plan, saw an advocate in the courtroom and asked her to give the petitioner assistance.”
  • “Neither party had a lawyer or advocate with them. The judge told each party to ask each other questions directly to each other instead of soliciting the information he needed from each party. This led to people who were already nervous trying to act like lawyers. At one point the judge rudely interrupted the respondent and said ‘You could have subpoenaed the police officer!’ The respondent replied “I didn’t know that! I’m not a lawyer.’ “
  • “The couple’s seven and eight-year-old children were in the courtroom.  The judge asked the bailiff to escort them out so they wouldn’t hear the testimony. The judge asked the children to go with the bailiff and added ‘He’s a nice man.’  After granting a temporary order the judge told the petitioner, ‘Keep the order with you.  I can’t be out there with you, but the police are.’ “

More stories from protective order court that illuminate barriers to justice or fair, unbiased, model practices that improve victim outcomes will be posted next month.