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In 1975, the Fund for Modern Courts pioneered an initiative designed to give New York citizens a powerful voice in how their courts are run. This groundbreaking program, known as Citizen Court Monitoring, is straightforward: From around the state, groups of non-lawyer volunteers observe court proceedings on a regular basis. The monitors evaluate the courts from the point of view of those outside the system, and recommend improvements to make the courts more efficient and user-friendly for the average person. The monitors' findings and recommendations are then published by Modern Courts and released to court administrators, judges, court personnel, lawmakers, bar associations, civic groups, and the media.

For a more than a quarter of a century, Citizen Court Monitoring has been the centerpiece of Modern Courts' efforts to involve the public in improving the administration of justice. Our award-winning program has been cited by the American Bar Association as one the country's most effective projects "in bringing problems to light and proposing changes to correct shortcomings." The National Center for State Courts has applauded it as one of the "most well-run court monitoring programs in the nation." The American Judicature Society, in presenting Modern Courts with its 1984 Justice Award, described it as "the catalyst for virtually every worthwhile judicial improvement in New York State," and "the model for jurisdictions elsewhere striving to make the justice system more responsive to citizen needs." Today, our volunteer court monitors number more than 600 and work in 16 counties across New York. Their dedication has helped to educate both the judiciary and the public, has made the courts more accountable to the communities they serve, and has produced tangible reforms that benefit all New Yorkers.

National Influence
Citizen court monitoring is gaining attention across the nation. As the pioneer in this effort, Modern Courts remains the standard-bearer, providing information and assistance to groups in other states that seek to evaluate and improve their courts. In 1999, Modern Courts participated in the landmark first-ever national conference on court monitoring, co-sponsored by WATCH of Minneapolis and the Santa Fe Court Monitors, and held in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since the conference, Modern Courts continues to share information with other groups and to provide guidance to those seeking to launch new programs.

Agenda for a New Millennium
The year 2000 marked the silver anniversary of Modern Courts' Citizen Court Monitoring program. To celebrate 25 years of citizen involvement in improving the administration of justice, Modern Courts revamped its program, appointing Kimyetta R. Robinson as Director of Court Monitoring, and adapting the program to meet 21st-century needs. A highlight of these improvements was the inauguration of Modern Courts' exciting new partnership with the New York State Office of Court Administration and the City University of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In an initiative organized by former Executive Director Steven Zeidman, students in two separate courses at John Jay College participated in Modern Courts' monitoring program as a condition of enrollment; 38 students took part and received credit for their participation. Under the auspices of the Office of Court Administration, members of the judiciary met with students in the classroom setting to share information and obtain feedback on the students' findings. Modern Courts is currently working to expand the partnership to other schools around the state. Such expansion will greatly increase the diversity of Modern Courts' pool of monitors, and will enable the monitoring program to expand its efforts to meet the twin goals of public education and court reform.

Modern Courts' newly-enhanced pool of monitors will continue their dedicated efforts to address problems in local courts around the state, and to improve the administration of justice for all New Yorkers. As the monitors' reports and recommendations are released, copies will be posted on this site in PDF format for the public to download free of charge.


Reports

Saratoga County Town and Village Courts
April 2008
Dutchess County Town and Village Courts
January 2008
Albany County Family Court (2001) Kings County Criminal Court (2001) Monroe County Family Court (1998) New York County Criminal Court (2004) New York County Supreme Court, Criminal Term (2003) Nassau County Court (2000) Rockland County Family Court (1999) Saratoga County Court (2004) Saratoga County Family Court (2003) Schenectady City Court (2003) Schenectady County Court (2002) Schenectady County Family Court (2000) Suffolk County Court (2000) Suffolk County Family Court (2004)

Questions about Citizen Court Monitoring?
Send us an email atcourtmonitoring@moderncourts.org

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