Pretrial Justice Institute
200 East Pratt Street, Suite 4100
Baltimore, MD 21202

(667) 281-9141

Courtroom First Appearance Observation Template

This form can help you get started documenting pretrial practice and creating accountability to the community.


Court observation at first appearance can be a powerful tool for creating change at the pretrial stage. The information gathered may provide critical insights into specific court practices and their impact, and whether such practices are compatible with legal standards. The presence of court observers also expresses the values and concerns of the community, and creates accountability and transparency where none may have existed previously.

This court observation template was designed to be filled out quickly and identify key concerns at first appearance hearings, such as whether a respectful courtroom atmosphere is present, whether a defense attorney is present, and the conditions under which a person is released, including the imposition of monetary bond. Users are encouraged to modify the layout of the template in such a way that allows the observer to fill in the information in the most efficient way during court hearings.