Guide to Joining the Eviction Court-Watching Team

Guide to Joining the Eviction Court-Watching Team

About the Court-Watching Campaign

With the recent strike-down of the federal eviction moratorium, Durham CAN will resume its eviction court-watching campaign this September.

In 2019, there were 9,948 evictions filed in Durham. Eviction is a harmful process that removes people from their homes while charging avoidable, sometimes erroneous fees, and regardless of the court's ruling, eviction filings stay on on a person’s record for 7 years. An eviction record can prevent someone from finding new housing or establishing lines of credit. Tenants, when they are able to make it to court, often do not have lawyers, while landlords do, which causes an imbalance of power in court proceedings. The imbalance of power and the harm caused by eviction disproportionately affects Black women, especially single mothers.

When we Court-Watch, we simply listen or take notes. The simple action of listening in on proceedings provides necessary oversight and accountability over a harmful system; Court-Watchers' presence in court rooms has been shown to favorably alter magistrates’ treatment of tenants, and when the campaign began in August of 2019, eviction filings began to drop.

The three goals of our Court-Watching Campaign are: (1) Research: We want to understand the causes of evictions in Durham, and to hear the stories of those most affected. The experiences of Court Watchers and the stories shared by those facing eviction inspired our actions to reform DHA’s eviction policy. (2) Intervention: We provide oversight and accountability over this part of the justice system to ensure equitable treatment of residents. (3) Leadership development: Court Watching participants will grow comfortable interacting with city and county officials, building relationships with our neighbors, and developing ideas for change. 

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Fill out this interest form to learn how to get involved with the Affordable Housing Eviction Team.


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Court-Watching "Dos"

+ Dress: business casual, comfortable shoes, mask on!

+ Be polite to all court personnel and security.

+ Be ready to listen and learn; bring a pen and paper to write notes

+ Take notes about what you experience, learn, or have questions about.

+ Be open to interacting with tenants, landlords and attorneys. Good conversations happen in the hallways.

+ Be relational, and consider asking tenants to explain to you why they are there, and to share their story.

+ State clearly when talking to others that you are not an attorney, that you cannot give legal advice, and that you are just there to learn more about what is going on with evictions in Durham.

+ Look for Legal Aid attorneys, Duke Civil Law Clinic attorneys and law students and UNC Civil Legal Assistance attorneys and law students. Let them know you are there court watching for Durham CAN (they are good partners to us).

Court-Watching "Don'ts"

Carry anything that could be considered a weapon.

- Eat or drink in or around the courtroom.

Make offers to help or offer advice.

Stay if you feel unsafe due to COVID or any other reason

Download Our Court-Watching Training Guide Here

Download Our Court-Watching Fact-Sheet Here

Download Emergency Rental Assistance (ERAP) Flyers for Tenants

Watch a Recording of Court-Watching Training  

Training Passcode: 4T*u?tZN