The National Family Court Watch Project (NFCWP) launched a pilot effort with eight volunteers. These court monitors observed 201 hearings held by 24 judges in California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Rhode Island. Since the pilot, we expanded our observations to include New Jersey and Washington State. To date, 50 volunteers have observed 82 judges in 687 family court proceedings. In addition, the organization leaders have an ongoing extern program with John Jay College of Criminal Justice and have presented the project at various conferences to inform, develop and recruit volunteers in all 50 states.
The National Family Court Watch Project believes that large-scale data will reveal national trends and ignite a call for change in the family court system. The project is a conversation springboard and a “quiet observer” to gain a sense of what’s happening in the family courts, report those findings publicly through a new conduit, and work with judges and the public to find solutions.
Volunteers attend hearings to flag problems such as litigants without legal representation, procedural and due process concerns, language, vision, and hearing barriers, representation not being prepared, family violence issues, especially child protection, court monitor access to virtual proceedings, noting if hearings are postponed, connectivity issues, and if proceedings are audible. Court watchers are:
- Interested citizens.
- Law students.
- Senior citizens.
- Student interns from various undergrad programs
- Graduate programs of study.
- University professors are offering this project to their students as a class project.
Additionally, any organization wanting to work on a community effort can volunteer for this project.
The NFCWP is the first known program to use a standardized observational instrument nationwide. We observe and report trends that the data collection reveals. The ultimate goal is to work with the public and judicial system to create methods and procedures that help resolve the problems we find in family courts across the country.
Renee E. Beeker BS, MA
Founder, President, Director, and Treasurer
Renee Beeker is the founder and President of the National Family Court Watch Project. A speaker and advocate for reform of the judicial system since 1996, Renee is a respected contributing member of many professional and grassroots organizations. In addition, Renee has been an invited speaker at numerous conferences around the United States. Renee’s article, “The Illusion of Protection Uncovered: Review of the Special Journal Issue on Child Custody and Domestic Violence,” was published in the Domestic Violence Report‘s February/March 2006 issue. Renee coauthored “Eyes on the Family Court: Creating an Effective Data Collection Instrument,” which was published in Family & Intimate Partner Violence Quarterly, Volume 12, Number 1, Summer 2019 Issue. ISSN 1941-7462
Renee designed a comprehensive Court Watch observational instrument currently used in the National Family Court Watch Project. Renee serves on various committees both in her state and nationally. Renee holds a Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Mount Union, Ohio, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Communications from Eastern Michigan University.
Paul Holdorf Esq.
Co-Founder, Co-Vice President, Secretary
Paul Holdorf is a retired New York corporate lawyer who later volunteered with Trial Lawyers Care to help 9/11 victims. In 2006 Paul co-founded the National Family Court Watch project, serves as an officer on the board, and is the project and data director. Paul coauthored “Eyes on the Family Court: Creating an Effective Data Collection Instrument,” which was published in Family & Intimate Partner Violence Quarterly, Volume 12, Number 1, Summer 2019 Issue. ISSN 1941-7462
Lisa Fischel-Wolovick, JD, M.S.W., is an attorney who has represented battered women for thirty years. Lisa is the author of numerous publications. Oxford University Press published Lisa’s most recent book: Traumatic Divorce and Separation: The impact of domestic violence and substance abuse in custody and divorce, in 2018. Lisa also helped to organize the first Criminal Court that specialized in domestic violence in New York State. Before becoming an attorney, Lisa obtained her master’s in social work and worked in hospital social work, including advocacy and counseling for battered women. Lisa is currently an adjunct Associate Professor at the City University of New York, John Jay’s College Graduate Program in Forensic Psychology. In addition, Lisa teaches Family Violence and Child Maltreatment courses and is a speaker on domestic violence, child custody, and trauma.
Denise Belcher is a Michigan business owner/operator, along with her husband, of A.A.A. Blue Star Safe and Lock. Denise’s business offers basic lock remedies for the homeowner and security solutions for the business owner. Denise has been dispatching jobs and handling business finances for over thirty years. Denise’s daughters also joined her in the family business to ensure that the company provides personal care and excellent customer service. In addition, Denise devoted some fifteen years to teaching children who attended her home church. As a mother of two and grandmother to more, Denise cares deeply about the safety of families caught in the family court system.
Board Member, Technical Support
Daniel Beeker, a veteran of the USAF, has been involved in the electronics industry for more than 42 years. Daniel is currently a Technical Director at NXP Semiconductor. Daniel has lived in Michigan since 1987 and has been involved with the National Family Court Watch Project since its inception, providing technical and accounting support.
Sheldon Wolberg is the owner of Micro Logic Inc. of West Bloomfield, Michigan. Micro Logic designs and manufactures Electronic Products for the Automotive, Industrial, and Commercial markets. Sheldon has a B.S.E. in Engineering from the University of Michigan and has been in business for over 35 years. Sheldon was born and lived all his life in Michigan and is married and has two children who are both in college. He is a long-time associate of Renee Beeker and instrumental in bringing the NFCWP website up to full functionality.