Who We Are 2018-07-09T14:29:37+00:00

Who We Are

About Us
History
Q&A
Board & Staff
Awards

About Us

Court Watch Montgomery reduces intimate partner violence in Maryland by ensuring victims have access to responsive justice and vital services that can stop the abuse quickly and permanently.

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. Court Watch 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.

Court Watch 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.

Court Watch Montgomery works toward the day when all domestic violence victims coming to court for legal protection are safe, treated with respect, and receive comprehensive legal protections that help stop their abuse.

This is our vision. 

This is our passion.

Help Us Create Lasting Change For Generations To Come

Judy Whiton
Co-Founder

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 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.

Together, Laurie and Judy shifted gears. 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's volunteers have spent thousands of observation hours in court each year making possible the first-ever, large-scale assessment of how our local courts are handling domestic violence cases based on a large dataset.

Court Watch has 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.

Board of Directors

Bonnie Beavers

Board President

Ms. Beavers is a Law Partner at Kleinfeld, Kaplan & Becker, LLP, Washington, D.C. (1986-present).  In addition to chairing Court Watch Montgomery’s Board, Ms. Beavers monitors criminal domestic violence cases...

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Lillian Agbeyegbe

Board Vice President

Dr. Agbeyegbe is a Strategic Research Analyst at Polaris, a leading human trafficking organization. She is a public health practitioner with multiple degrees (DrPH, CHES, CPH) in public health, health education, advocacy, and ...

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John Ford

Board Treasurer

Mr. Ford is General Manager of NPACT, the national trade organization serving the needs of producers of non-fiction media. NPACT members collectively produce the vast majority of all non-fiction content...

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Mary Silva

Board Member

Mary Silva led Court Watch’s campaign for the first county-funded Safe Passage Center to protect domestic violence victims and their children during court-ordered visitation.

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Judy Whiton

Court Watch Co-Founder
Emeritus Board Member

Ms. Whiton, co-founder of Court Watch Montgomery, spent extensive time in Montgomery County courtrooms as a court companion for domestic violence victims. Ms. Whiton now serves as a Leader for Court Watch’s...

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Staff

Laurie Duker, Co-Founder and Executive Director

Ms. Duker has nurtured Court Watch from a tiny all-volunteer organization to a thriving non-profit organization with clout that is increasing access to justice for domestic violence victims across the state and providing a model for communities across the nation. Ms. Duker previously has worked as a Victim Advocate for Montgomery County’s Abused Persons Program, a Conservation Biologist at LakeNet; a Violence Prevention Program Officer at Children’s Safety Network and a Lobbyist for Common Cause. Ms. Duker received her MBA from Yale and MS in Biology from the University of Maryland.

Amy Kass, Volunteer Coordinator

Ms. Kass oversees recruitment, training and coordination of over 70 local volunteers.  Previously she served as an employment coach, domestic violence victim advocate, bilingual community health educator, and advocate for the Latino community and minority at-risk populations. Ms. Kass also has a background in staff training and group facilitation.

Cynthia Smith, Senior Advisor

Cynthia Smith handles long-term sustainability and program effectiveness for Court Watch. Ms. Smith is a licensed attorney in the State of Maryland. She has over 20 years experience in the design, direction, and evaluation of rule of law, access to justice, human rights, and civil society strengthening programs throughout the United States, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. Most recently, Ms. Smith served as the Deputy Country Director for the American Bar Association/Philippines. Ms. Smith holds a Juris Doctor from the Washington College of Law at American University; an MA in Spanish Studies with an Area Focus in International Development from American University.

Awards