“… he read aloud a courtroom speech comparing the hue of the clipboards to gang colors worn by the Bloods or the Crips…”


From the Wall Street Journal Law Blog


Clipboards Had Minnesota Judge Seeing Red

October 25, 2010

By Michael Rothfeld

jacknordby200.jpgJudges can get persnickety, you might say, about certain kinds of behavior in their courtrooms. Witness intimidation would bother just about any jurist, for example. Forgetting to silence cell phones probably would, too.

And then there are red clipboards.

Jack Nordby, a judge in Hennepin County Minnesota (pictured), apparently felt so menaced by the red clipboards carried by WATCH, a courtroom watchdog group that focuses on cases of violence against women and children, racial disparities and other issues, that he read aloud a courtroom speech comparing the hue of the clipboards to gang colors worn by the Bloods or the Crips. An ABA Journal post on the issue is here. Click here for a story from the Minnesota Star-Tribune. A Civil Society blog post here quotes from Nordby’s statement: “We have encountered in recent years an occasional problem with gang members allegedly using gang signs and insignia to influence or intimidate witnesses. The dynamic of the phenomenon is essentially the same.” 

 He called the red clipboard “an ingenious device,” which “says, principally to the judge but to others as well: ‘We are watching you. We do not trust you.’”

In WATCH’s subsequent complaint to the Minnesota Board of Judicial Standards, the group said Nordby had accused the group of having a sexist agenda, and a “nefarious influence” in justice system, among other failings.

In a formal complaint made public last week, the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards accused Nordby of misconduct for publicly airing his disdain for WATCH in his courtroom.

Representatives for Nordby disputed those charges; he is appealing the complaint to the state Supreme Court.


CityPages has posted the complaint (PDF) and Nordby’s response (PDF).

September News from WATCH…

Please click on the links provided to read the September 2010 WATCH newsletter:



by Susan Lenfestey, WATCH founder

Recently I was talking to a friend about a WATCH report that documents, among other things, the hurdles facing a victim of domestic abuse if her children have been removed from her care and she is trying to get them back. “So you don’t just sit in the back of the courtroom checking things off on a list,” she said. It was the clichéd “aha!” moment when I realized that many people, even those who generously support WATCH, don’t know very much about what WATCH actually does.
As one of the founders of WATCH, I can tell you that in our nascence we did indeed sit in the courtroom with a checklist and, well, watch. Did the hearing start on time? Did anyone tell the victim or family members why there was a delay and how long it would be? Did an emotionally charged sentencing get squeezed into a busy arraignment court? Was the defendant – or victim – one we had seen in the past? After one year we issued a report on what we, as outside observers, had noted and what we believed could be done more effectively. Some of the practices now taken for granted in the daily routine of the courts were enacted as a result of that simple first report.
Read the full article and entire WATCH Post newsletter…




In this webinar you’ll learn strategies and techniques for recruiting, training, and managing court monitor volunteers.
Special guests Tulsa County Court Watch and the Legal Aid Justice Center of Virginia will discuss their innovative programs that use seniors and law students respectively to monitor the courts. Participants will receive sample applications, job descriptions, and screening materials.
Date & Time: Wednesday, September 29th 11:30 (CST)*
Cost: $50                
NACMP member rate: $35


Register Now

Contact: Anna Light or (612) 341-2747 x7. 

*9:30 am Pacific, 10:30 am Mountain, 12:30 pm Eastern



Courtwatch-Rochester (Rochester, MN) recently visited the WATCH offices to meet with staff and learn about our program. The group is reorganizing after a staffing change and investigating new directions for their work. We wish this all-volunteer organization all the best as they work to improve their courts.

WATCH is pleased to announce that the Domestic Violence Report will publish an article on WATCH’s report examining the child protection process in Hennepin County, MN. The article will appear in the October/November issue.

Congratulations to the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (an NACMP member) on the release of their video entitled Family Abuse Protection Orders in Virginia: Everything You Need to Know. This innovative 15-minute video, available at their website, provides an overview of the process for obtaining an order and potential consequences if the order is violated.



The deputy was playing solitaire on his cell phone throughout the entire order for protection hearing this morning.
During a probation violation hearing for a third degree assault and domestic assault by strangulation case, the defense attorney was exceptionally organized and respectful. He represented his client effectively without minimizing the crime in any way.
I was reminded again today of how hard it is for the families of victims and defendants to see court staff laughing and joking around between hearings. I overheard the mother of a defendant whisper to her husband that she felt the court personnel were not respecting her family’s dignity.
A defendant out in the lobby at one of the suburban courthouses was texting a woman in the courtroom. After a defense attorney told the deputies what was happening, they went out and took him into custody for violating his no contact order.
Court was scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. At 10:30, the judge had only spent 10 minutes on the bench, heard two cases, and provided no explanation as to what was going on.
Since I began monitoring this court in September, I have seen all the attending deputies sleeping at some point!


bringing a public
eye to justice

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Mpls, MN 55402
(612) 341-2747


WATCH System Accountability Webinar 7-20-10


Court Monitoring Makes a Difference

Since 1993, WATCH has trained 760 volunteers who have donated

32,000 hours and monitored over 61,000 hearings.


WATCH’s mission is to make the justice system more effective and responsive in handling cases of violence against women and children, and to create a more informed and involved public.

Every day trained WATCH volunteers observe court and report on what they see. WATCH follows up with court staff and committees to recommend improvements. Our experience shows that when the public is present in court, everyone does a better job.

  • WATCH was founded in 1992 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Trained WATCH volunteers monitor over 5,000 hearings each year in several Hennepin County courts
  • Court personnel and advocates for women agree that public scrutiny of the courts leads to improvements
  • WATCH trains court monitoring groups cross the U. S. with manuals, site visits, and web-based training

WATCH is committed to ending racial, cultural, and gender bias in the courts and to reflecting that commitment at all levels of our organization.



Click on link below to join our July 20th webinar:

Monitoring Sexual Assault Cases

July 20th from 11:30-12:30pm (CST)

System Accountability for Sexual Assault Cases

Special Guest:
Attorney Laura Jones, CourtWatch Manager
King County Sexual Assault Resource Center in Seattle, WA


Through monitoring, research, and feedback, court watch programs promote system accountability by examining and reporting on court procedures, policies, and practices. But with so few cases of sexual violence getting reported to the police and even fewer going to trial, how can court monitoring help? This one-hour presentation will provide an overview of court monitoring and address ways sexual assault programs and advocates can highlight flaws in the system and advocate for change. Special guest Laura Jones will discuss her programs project using court monitors to examine their Sexual Assault Protection Order process.

These additional topics provide in-depth, practical advice and information on specific monitoring issues. 

Can’t make the date? Contact us to schedule a one-on-one session.

September 29th
Managing Court Monitor Volunteers
November 16th
Providing Feedback to Your Courts
All WATCH webinars run for one hour and are scheduled for 9:30am PST, 10:30am MST, 11:30am CST, and 12:30pm EST. Payment information above. Webinar descriptions and FAQ can be found here.
Click here to view a brief PowerPoint presentation on the basics of court monitoring.