What to Watch for as a Court Observer

(With thanks to ACLU of Texas’ Cynthia Pompa)

 What to watch for when observing Border Prosecutions

  • Please record anything that seemed improper or unusual, even if it does not fit the examples given below. 

Defendant or attorney stated that the defendant has a fear of deportation to his/her home country or explicitly requested asylum.

  • Report what was said about this
  • Did the attorney give the client a petition or other type of written information?
  • Was the request put on the court record?

Defendant has said they have been separated from their children

  • Report what was said about this

 Defendant has children and/or a spouse who are U.S. citizens

  • Report what was said about this

Defendant showed confusion or lack of understanding. Examples:

  • Apparent language barrier not accommodated
  • Apparent illness or disability (physical or mental)
  • Insufficient communication with lawyer before or during court

 Defendant’s experience with apprehension. Examples:

  • Defendant has injuries
  • Defendant asks for his/her medications or for the return of belongings

Other observations of defendant, attorney and/or judge. Examples:

  • Defendant appeared obviously under 18 (describe appearance)
  • Lawyer made an obvious mistake or was unprepared, or said something prejudiced, inappropriate, or adverse to client
  • Judge scolded or cut off a lawyer (please describe). Was it a defense or prosecuting attorney?
  • Judge appeared to pressure a lawyer or client into taking the plea or said something that seemed prejudiced or inappropriate

Logistical or technical errors (e.g., headset or speaker malfunction)

 You or other observers were prevented from entering or were asked to leave –

  • Give name and title of excluding official and the reason asserted.

 (The volunteer will need to receive or know where to get the calendar in order to best complete this part)

For McAllen:

Judge Ormsby’s court does share its scheduling docket with the public (if someone knows otherwise, please advise with a link)

Judge Hacker’s Court

For Brownsville:

Judge Morgan’s Court

Judge Torteya’s Court

 If you have information to send us, it is important to include the following:

  1. Date of observation
  2. Name of presiding Magistrate (shown on the Calendar)
  3. For each defendant that you are providing information about, please include:
  • Defendant’s name
  • Defendant’s case number
  • Name of the defendant’s defense attorney
  • Defendant’s country of origin (if stated by Magistrate)
  • Gender (if you can observe)
  • Date and location of crossing (if stated by Magistrate)
  • S. Code violations – copy these as they are shown on the calendar. Usually they are 8 USC 1325(a)(1), or a combination of 8 USC 1326(a)(1) and 1325(a)(1).
  • Length of sentence given to the defendant