Court Watching 101: Holding the Justice System Accountable

Court watching is a low-cost high impact practice in basic democracy, holding our public court officials accountable for their decisions and actions. With a handful of volunteers, you can collect reliable data on prosecutors, judges (criminal, bail court, civil, family, immigration, etc.), sheriffs, police, and public defenders where often such public data is difficult if not impossible to obtain. By publishing such community-gathered data you too can bring down empires! Come join us and learn how. We will showcase our New Orleans model and give you the initial tools to start your own court watching program.

Simone LevineSimone Levine
Executive Director, Court Watch NOLA

Simone Levine has dedicated her career to ensuring public accountability in the criminal justice system and in the civic arena. In August 2015, she assumed the post of Executive Director of Court Watch NOLA (CWN), an office dedicated to ensuring constitutional rights, victim rights, transparency, procedural fairness, and efficiency in the Orleans Parish Criminal Courts. Prior to joining CWN, Ms. Levine served as Deputy Police Monitor within the New Orleans Office of the Independent Police Monitor (OIPM). In that capacity, she supervised the monitoring of major use of force cases (e.g. officer involved shootings, in custody deaths) in which the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) was involved. She also supervised the monitoring of NOPD disciplinary hearings. Ms. Levine has worked as both a prosecutor as well as a criminal defense attorney. She has served as a prosecutor in the Office of the Attorney General of New York where she prosecuted public corruption and white collar crime.  Before entering the Attorney General's Office, Ms. Levine practiced criminal defense for ten years, managing her own private practice and practicing as a public defender in the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society in Manhattan. Between 2006-2010, Ms. Levine served as legislative counsel to the New York State Assembly Criminal Justice Committee, the New York State Senate Criminal Justice Committee and the New York State Senate Corrections Committee. Also during this time, Ms. Levine was an Adjunct Professor of Constitutional Law and Criminal Justice at the John Jay College in New York.


Effective Strategies for Holding Elected Officials Accountable

This workshop will provide opportunities for attendees to learn about effective strategies for engaging lawmakers and other elected officials to achieve meaningful criminal justice reforms. Attendees should expect to increase their understanding of how to develop effective messaging, understand ways to collaborate with likely and unlikely allies and ensure accountability in the implementation of successful reforms.

Marissa McCall DodsonMarissa McCall Dodson
Public Policy Director, Southern Center for Human Rights

Marissa McCall Dodson joined SCHR in April of 2016 as the Public Policy Director.  Marissa is responsible for developing and advocating for legislation that furthers SCHR’s mission, including reforming harsh sentence laws, enhancing alternatives to incarceration, abolishing the death penalty, strengthening the public defender system, and ending the criminalization of poverty.

Before joining SCHR, Marissa worked on the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Campaign for Smart Justice assisting advocacy efforts to significantly reduce prison populations and improve the quality, scope, availability, and accessibility of services that address the needs of impacted communities in the South. In 2008, Marissa was awarded an Equal Justice Works Fellowship to develop the first program in Georgia to address individual and systemic barriers facing people with a criminal history through direct service, education and legislative advocacy at the Georgia Justice Project.

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Devin Barrington-WardDevin Barrington-Ward
Founder and Managing Director, Black Futurists Group

Devin Barrington-Ward’s vision for the future is grounded in his lived experiences and personal identity as a Black Queer man of Caribbean descent growing beyond the traumas of youth homelessness, and navigating Black love, friendships, and community in the midst of immense racial and social challenges and the potential for a better future.

His work has resulted in the opportunity to serve as a subject matter expert and commentator to local and national media outlets like the Washington Post, Washington Blade, Newsweek, NPR Atlanta, and TvONE. Devin’s passion for building Black Futures has earned him top honors and recognition from the Gentlemen’s Foundation, DC Black Pride, Poz Magazine, and DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

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Stories from the Movement: Storytelling Workshop

What would happen if the courts could be transformed by human stories? During this workshop on storytelling as activism, attendees will explore how participatory defense can assist those who face charges, their families, and communities to impact the outcomes of cases and modify the landscape of power in and out the courtroom. A combination of video presentations, facilitated discussions, and sharing of resources and results will provide attendees with strategies, cases, and networks to further the application of this community organizing model.

Nikki RobertsNikki Roberts
National Formerly Incarcerated Advocate, Cage Free Thinking

Nikki Roberts is an author, public speaker, activist, and returning citizen, who’s studied both Mass Communications and Theology on collegiate levels. Nikki served 10 years without parole in Georgia’s Department of Corrections from 2004 – 2014 and frequently uses her lived experiences as well as systemic research to raise awareness on the myriad of issues associated with Mass Incarceration. Nikki is also under book-contract with Fortress Press working on her soon-to-be released memoir “Freed From Within”.


Tiffany Williams RobertsTiffany Williams Roberts
Community Engagement & Movement Building Counsel, Southern Center for Human Rights

Tiffany Williams Roberts joined SCHR in April 2018 as the Community Engagement & Movement Building Counsel. Tiffany Roberts is a civil rights and criminal defense attorney in Atlanta. She has practiced criminal defense since 2008, first as a public defender with the Atlanta Judicial Circuit Public Defender and later as a solo practitioner beginning in 2011. As a public defender, Tiffany represented hundreds of indigent clients facing felony prosecution and graduated from the Gideon’s Promise trial advocacy training program. She expanded her private practice to include civil rights litigation for victims of police abuse.

A significant portion of Tiffany’s practice is dedicated to pro bono representation of activists and organizers. She has been recognized by the Atlanta NAACP, DeKalb Lawyers Association and Southern Center for Human rights for movement lawyering and social justice activism.

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