CourtWatch is a court monitoring program founded by KCSARC in January 2010. It was established for the purpose of holding the justice system accountable for its handling of sexual assault and child abuse cases, and to create a more informed public.
Court monitoring is a way to gather information about the courts. It includes the observation of court proceedings, as well as conducting research on individual cases, court practices, and procedures. CourtWatch engages volunteers from the community to observe civil and criminal proceedings related to sexual assault and child physical abuse. Although there are court monitoring programs throughout the nation and world, CourtWatch is the first in King County, and in Washington State, to focus on sexual assault cases. In 2013, our volunteers donated nearly 1,200 hours and monitored 351 different cases.
The data collected by our volunteer CourtWatch Monitors is used to improve the court process. Volunteers are trained to be unobtrusive observers, and document both procedural and substantive information about the cases that they observe. Depending on the data that is collected, CourtWatch does the following:
Uses the data internally to inform how KCSARC staff prepares victims for the court process.
Prepares reports that focus on particular aspects of the system (see reports below).
Provides feedback to stakeholders and people working within the system.
Benefits of CourtWatch:
Court monitoring provides data to support anecdotal evidence about what is happening in the courts.
The presence of volunteers from the community promotes transparency in court proceedings.
Monitors represent the public perception of the justice system, and their observations and feedback can support policy efforts that address gaps in the system.
Court monitoring increases public understanding of the justice system and the unique issues surrounding sexual assault cases.