Court Watch

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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. Prosecutors need our support because they are often alone in the courtroom. 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.

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, report what happened with our online form. We will compile the data and post the results so the public can see how judges are doing.

Your day in court: Tips for court watch volunteers

Getting There

  • If driving, there is an "early bird" daily parking rate before 9am. After 9am, private parking is charged every 30 minutes. Street parking is metered and hard to find. 
  • Use this link to find public transportation to the Hall of Justice. Just type in your address and the app will tell you which bus or MUNI route to take.
  • Uber or Lyft might be the most convenient way to travel to the Hall of Justice and avoid parking fees. 

Finding Your Courtroom

  • After going through security, walk straight to the end of the hall (passing the elevators). Turn around and look up to see an electronic monitor that lists the judge's name, floor number, department number and time. 

When In the Courtroom

  • Arrive on time. Before proceedings begin, approach the Assistant District Attorney (prosecutor) assigned to the case. Tell them you are a concerned neighbor and volunteer court watcher (we will have notified the prosecutor to expect you).
  • Sit in the section behind the prosector (usually on the right side, as you face the judge).
  • Sit as close to the front as possible due to low volume. It is notoriously hard to hear courtroom proceedings from the audience because microphones are not always used and people tend to talk very low. We wonder if they do it on purpose!
  • Never attempt to speak to the judge or the defendant. Direct contact with the judge could trigger a recusal from the case. When appropriate, the prosecutor can announce to the judge that concerned neighbors are present.
  • Dress casually and comfortably.
  • Bring a notebook to jot down important facts and turning points of the case.
  • Report what happened in court using our online form.

Court Watch Forms
Court Watch Report (for volunteers to report what happened in court)
Case Tracker (for coordinators to follow cases)