The mission of our unique Court Watch Project is to monitor and evaluate Cook County’s Domestic Violence Court. Our goal is to observe; to collect information; and to present data that will help promote accountability, transparency and adherence with the Illinois Domestic Violence Act.
In 2008, the Court Watch Project was established by a newly formed partnership between the AmeriCorps VISTA program and the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network. The Project is the first of its kind in the specialized Cook County Domestic Violence Courthouse located at 555 West Harrison Street in Chicago, Illinois.
The Court Watch Project counts on volunteer Court Watchers who attend and observe both civil and criminal domestic violence court proceedings. Without The Court Watch Project, and the efforts of dedicated volunteers, community oversight of our courts would be nearly non-existent.
Utilizing a vast volunteer network, in partnership with Loyola University’s Center for Urban Research and Learning (CURL), observations are entered into a database to be analyzed and compiled for presentation of an annual Court Watch Report. The report is the framework for effecting important changes not only in the courts, but also in the community as a whole.
About Court Watch Volunteers
The recruiting process for volunteers occurs on a year-round basis. The Court Watch Project seeks volunteers interested in issues relating to domestic violence or social and criminal justice. Our volunteers must be over 18 years of age. They should have a keen awareness or curiosity about domestic violence and related legal issues and they are expected to attend a one-day training session where they will be briefed on data collection and maintaining appropriate boundaries in relation to confidentiality and interactions during court proceedings. Volunteers must be able to sit in a courtroom and focus for extended periods of time (up to four hours at a time) and they must be able to fill out court reporting forms with legible handwriting and a high degree of accuracy.
We hold our volunteers to high standards. Objective and unbiased observations are required to create a credible report. The Court Watch Project does not seek to damage or undermine the courts’ reputation or effectiveness. It is not an organization with an underlying agenda and it is not a vehicle designed to criticize individuals involved in the legal process. The Court Watch Project has won praise as a collaborative effort to improve the functions and facilities of our domestic violence court system.
Since the creation of the Court Watch Project, the mere presence of volunteers in the courts is already effecting positive change. We are determined to ensure that it continues to have a positive impact. We encourage concerned citizens to join us in the effort to enhance transparency, and inform the public’s awareness of domestic violence laws and domestic violence courts.
To Become a Court Watch Volunteer
To apply to be a Court Watch Project Volunteer, fill out a: Court Watch Application
Send it via email or U.S. mail to:
Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network
The Court Watch Project
1 East Wacker Drive, Suite 1630
Chicago, Illinois 60601-2001