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. Students will be required to undertake one visit (of approx. two to three hours duration) to the magistrate’s court in their local area and observe a number of cases. You may attend in a group with other students. However please keep your numbers to four students per court sitting to avoid overcrowding, discomfort to people appearing in court, and any inconvenience in the courtrooms. Students should locate a court that is nearest their place of residence.
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 yourobservations and critical reflections. Record when you attended, what court, and the type of case you observed. 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?). 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)? Many people who attend court do not have legal representation – any observations on the impacts of having/not having representation? Is there a role for human services workers in the court system? Your report should contain any recommendations for improving the court system for marginalized groups.
References are welcome, but not required.