Court Watch Montgomery


What happens in domestic violence courtrooms changes lives – but not always for the better. Court Watch Montgomery’s reports analyze data we collect in approximately 1,000 protective order and criminal domestic violence hearings each year.

Court Watch Montgomery is 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.

Latest Report

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 leaving no sooner than 15 minutes thereafter. When properly executed, staggered exits reduce the risk of confrontation between the parties outside the courtroom and enable victims and their families to get safely to their transportation home. Staggered exits can help lessen trauma and increase the likelihood that victims will return to court when necessary to obtain a final order. Court Watch has seen the use of staggered exits fluctuate by year and vary by judge, despite the fact that they are cost-free and pose no significant burden to the courts. In our 2023 supplement, we are pleased to report that use of staggered exits in Montgomery County District Court increased by 20 percentage points in the one year since we last reported on use of this best practice. We applaud the judiciary’s commitment to use of this safe and free protocol.

Past Reports

In this report, Court Watch’s first, we examine data collected by our volunteer monitors in District Court protective and peace order hearings between January and July of 2011. While we document the behavior of judges and court employees and are concerned by the rudeness and dismissiveness of a small number of judges and bailiffs, that is not the bulk of this report. Using the nationally recognized "Guide to Improving Practice" as our reference, we identify several fundamental best practices that impact the short and long-term safety of victims and the likelihood of their returning to court and assess how often judges utilize them.