Length: 1350 words
In the human services field you will most likely have some contact with the court and legal system. Many students are unaware of ‘real life’ court settings and procedures aside from impressions gain via television ‘law and order’ programs.
There are two things to research. Firstly, you need to have done some readings so that you understand what you are observing when you go. In particular, make sure that you understand what is meant by “therapeutic jurisprudence”, and also make sure that you have read up on the potential roles for human service workers in relation to the court processes (before, during and after).
Process and questions for the Observational Report:
You should plan to observe the court for at least two hours while it is in session. The report should contain the following:
When, where? Date attended, what court, type of case
The case Summarize what the lawyers (or the defendant if there was no legal representation) argued or the witnesses testified to (if you observe a trial), and what the magistrate did or said (e.g. what types of questions did the magistrate ask the lawyers?).
Your impression Did you understand what was happening at all times? Feel free to include comments about your impressions of the people and their work, the legal issues in the case, the parties, or the process in general. Do you have any comments about the relevance of the profiles of defendants (e.g. age, race, gender, dress)?
Legal representation Many people who attend court do not have legal representation – any observations on the impacts of having/not having representation?
Role for social workers Is there a role for human services workers in the court system?
Recommendations Your report should contain any recommendations for improving the court system for marginalised groups.
References References are welcome, but not required.