Join us in court to monitor the trials of defendants charged with burglaries in our neighborhoods. Be a court watch volunteer and help ensure the San Francisco judicial system takes these crimes seriously.
Why is court watch needed?
Prosecuting attorneys are more likely to bring burglary cases to trial if they know community members are concerned enough about the crime to show up for the proceedings. They tell us our court watch volunteers build morale.
Prosecutors need our support because they are often alone in the courtroom. The only people in open court are usually the friends, associates and extended family of the criminal defendant. Understandably, victims can be afraid to attend. And it’s rare for general members of the community to show up and demand justice. An important part of court watch is being there as an advocate for victims to help them feel supported and heard.
Trials shouldn’t be a popularity contest. But judges and juries can be influenced when the audience in a courtroom only represents one side. The same goes for preliminary hearings, when judges can decide to dismiss a case or lessen the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.
By showing judges that the community wants to see cases move forward, we hope the courts will be less likely to let burglars off with slaps on the wrist. Judges have told us that court watchers can have an impact. The people elect judges, after all.
How does court watch work?
Community volunteers attend open court to monitor the trials of defendants charged with burglaries in San Francisco neighborhoods.
When you sign up to be a court watch volunteer, you will get regular emails that list upcoming cases. You can choose which cases you would like to attend. After your court session, answer the questions in our online form to describe what happened. We will compile the data and post the results so the public can see how judges are doing.
Your day in court
A checklist for court watch volunteers:
- Arrive on time. Before proceedings begin, approach the Assistant District Attorney (ADA) assigned to the case. Tell them you are a concerned neighbor and volunteer court watcher (we will have notified the ADA to expect you).
- Sit in the same section as the ADA. When appropriate, the ADA can announce to the judge that concerned neighbors are present.
- Never try to speak to the judge or the defendant. Direct contact with the judge could trigger a recusal from the case.
- Report what happened in court using our online form.