What is a court watcher?

A court watcher is an individual who goes to small claims courts on days that eviction cases are heard, first to listen and observe the proceedings, to hear the tenants’ stories, to realize how vulnerable their lives are, and then to begin recording and documenting data for each case. Data includes the demographics of the tenant, if children are present in the home, habitability issues, is the tenant represented by an attorney, does the tenant even get a chance to speak?

Indiana has few tenant-protective laws, so our hope is that the data collected by court watchers may lead to future changes: the way eviction cases are handled, easy access to free legal services for tenants, and enacting laws that hold landlords accountable for habitability issues like mold, pest infestation, working heat and a/c, or lack of electricity or water. Ultimately, our hope is to get fair and equitable housing laws in Indiana.

But most importantly, we are there to support the tenants.  It is the belief of most court watchers and those involved in housing advocacy work that every individual has the right to live in safe, habitable, and affordable housing.