Court Watch Poland Foundation is a non-for-profit watchdog organization created in 2010 in Torun, Poland to promote and coordinate citizen monitoring of trial courts in the Republic of Poland.
What is Court Watch?
Court watch is a citizen movement consisting of the exercise of social control over the way courts and the system of justice fulfill their duties. It is especially popular in English-speaking countries such as USA and Canada.
The goal of the movement is to improve the quality of civic service provided in democratic countries by the courts. This is to be achieved mainly by promoting and organizing ordinary citizens monitoring their local courts by attending court sessions as public.
What are our goals?
• promoting knowledge about the way the justice system works
• promoting civic attitudes towards the justice system
• improving the performance of the Polish system of justice, and especially – of the court system
How do we want to achieve our goals?
• by promoting and organizing citizen court monitoring
• by maintaining a website with information on citizen rights and duties of the court towards the parties as well as public in general;
• by organizing training sessions about the way Polish system of justice works, about rights citizens have in front of the courts, as well as training in our methods of court monitoring
• by publishing reports, opinion articles and recommendations pertaining to the functioning of the justice system in Poland
• by carrying out and supporting special research projects, e.g. by scholars sharing our aims/concerns/methods;
• by recruiting collaborators, volunteers, collaborating organizations and gathering resources necessary to achieve our statutory aims
What will be the benefits from our work?
Some of the potential benefits from our activities include:
1. The control function of court monitoring by Court Watch Poland Foundation can result in the improvement of the quality of service by court staff, due to increased awareness of being (or potentially being) observed/evaluated by court observers collaborating with the Foundation
2. The educational function of Court Watch Poland Foundation should help increase legal consciousness of Polish society, especially with regard to citizen rights in front of the court, as well as help “accustom” citizens with courts as a democratic institution
3. The evaluative role of court monitoring by Court Watch Poland Foundation is expected to bring a diagnosis of the extent to which courts in Poland are performing their social functions, as well as source data and analyses useful to scholars, non-governmental organizations and state authorities, who plan and implement desired changes within the Polish system of justice.
How do we work?
Our main form of activity is citizen court monitoring.
Citizen court monitoring consists of citizens participating in court sessions as public. They do not represent either party, but observe the way a session proceeds, with special attention to the work of the court (the judges and court employees), and to the extent rights of the parties in front of the court are respected.
How do we monitor?
Court Watch Poland Foundation recruits and trains persons who would like to systematically observe court sessions. During the training, future monitors are introduced to the court system in Poland, basic rights and duties in front of the court, as well as details of court watch method. Observers are equipped with simple questionnaires, which help systematize the observation and direct attention to crucial issues. Data from these questionnaires is then entered by the observers into our online database, and is then analysed. Based on these observations, our yearly national report is prepared and published, as well as a number of more detailed, local reports.
What is monitored?
Analyses by Court Watch Poland Foundation are not limited to legal issues. We analyse various aspects of the functioning of the court, which are important from the perspective of the parties and from the point of view of public interest. These include court building infrastructure, court information policy, accessibility of services for citizens (including the disabled ones), the way parties, witnesses, legal representatives and public are treated in the courtroom etc. Our current focus is respecting the right of public to sit in open sessions.
What do we support?
As any watchdog organization we support all efforts to facilitate access to public information for citizens, as well as any efforts to protect freedom of speech, including speech critical of public figures and institutions.