How to (Virtually) Courtwatch in Philly

Have a few hours a week to spare? A phone? A computer or tablet with internet? That’s all you need to sign up to be a courtwatch volunteer.

What to do:

  1. Check your email the morning of your shift for call-in information and schedule
  1. Download Calendar Schedule Report if attached to email, or go to and enter today’s date, Philadelphia-01 as the Judicial District, and the assigned courtroom. Select “Print” to download the report as a PDF.
  1. Open the Courtwatch Data google spreadsheet. If the judge you are observing has a tab already, use that tab. If not, go to an unnamed tab and rename the tab for the judge. If someone else is courtwatching at the same time and entering info in the tab you would be using, just take your own notes and send it to JAT–you might capture something the other courtwatcher hasn’t.
  1. Call in using the provided information. Immediately mute your phone and make sure your phone remains muted for your entire shift. If you call in before the court does, you will be disconnected after about 5 minutes of being on hold. Just continue to call in until court starts. If you have any issues connecting, or court hasn’t started after waiting 30 minutes, notify JAT asap.
  1. Listen. Don’t be overly concerned if you aren’t familiar with terminology and shorthand being used. Just try and follow along, listening for what relief the defense attorney is asking for, if the ADA has an objection, whether the judge grants or denies the motion and reasoning if any, and whatever additional comments the judge makes that seem worth noting. Use the Calendar Schedule Report to help track the cases and spellings of defendants’ names. Note that the relevant hearings on the Calendar Schedule Report are the ones that have the judge you are observing as the “Presiding Authority”. If the type of offense is not obvious from the Calendar Schedule Report, make a note of it (ie, violent, nonviolent, gun involved, degree of felony or misdemeanor).

6. Enter the info you hear into the google spreadsheet, or in your own notes if the spreadsheet is already being updated.

What we’re looking for:

1.  Petitioner’s Name/ Docket Number

2.  Type of Motion (check all that apply)

  • Motion for Bail Reduction
  • Motion to Lift Detainer (or Conditions, such as house arrest, specific treatment)
  • Motion to Lift Bench Warrant
  • Motion for Parole
  • Other?

3.  Any Additional Information on Motion 

  • Motion for Bail Reduction: (a) original bail amount; (b) charges; (c) reasons offered for/against motion, and requested alternative bail
  • Motion to Lift Detainer: (a) conviction for which petitioner is on probation or parole; (b) when the detainer issued/how long petitioner has been in custody; (c) reason for the detainer’s issuance; (d) reasons offered for/against motion
  • Motion to Lift Bench Warrant: (a) charges in case where warrant issued; (b) date warrant was issued; (c) reasons offered for/against motion
  • Motion for Parole: (a) conviction for which serving sentence; (b) sentence; (c) how much of the sentence served; and (d) reasons offered for/against motion

4.  Judge’s Decision on Motion

5.  Any Reasons Given for Decision

6.  Any Additional Commentary Made by Judge or Parties

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