As a criminal defense attorney, I am excited to share the launch of the National Courtwatch Network and its website,, which aims to bring transparency and accountability to courtrooms across the United States. According to a recent article, the initiative seeks to inspire a transparency movement that scrutinizes the “assembly line of injustice” happening in America’s courtrooms.

The National Courtwatch Network formalizes the independent Courtwatch organizations operating across the US, allowing more volunteers to join existing programs or create new ones in their community. Courtwatch involves volunteers observing court proceedings, documenting what they see through note-taking and data collection, and holding prosecutors, police, judges, jailers, and defense attorneys accountable. The initiative also features a short film, “The Court Watchers,” narrated by actor Jesse Williams, with an original musical score from Grammy-winning musician Fiona Apple, one of the national network’s highest-profile volunteers. Apple has been observing court proceedings in Prince George’s County, Maryland, for two years with Courtwatch PG, the largest virtual court watch program in the nation. Courtwatch PG Director Carmen Johnson co-founded the organization and became fast friends with Apple. Johnson, a formerly incarcerated person, believes that court watchers observing her case could have kept her out of prison.

In some places where Courtwatch programs exist, including in Maryland, observations of volunteers have inspired federal lawsuits alleging serious, systemic civil rights violations. The main goal of the campaign and short film is to spark a transparency movement that inspires people around the country to build upon the fight for police accountability by scrutinizing the “assembly line of injustice” playing out in America’s courtrooms.

As a criminal defense lawyer, I believe that transparency and accountability in the courtroom are essential to achieving justice. Courtwatch provides a way for people to observe and talk about what they see in court and for officials to be held accountable. Court transparency is the next frontier of criminal justice accountability. This campaign and the National Courtwatch Network are significant steps towards achieving court transparency and inspiring a movement ensuring everyone receives justice.