(Observe – to pay attention to, to perceive or notice, to watch, to recognize or note occurrences, to draw inferences, to remark or comment)
The Observation Report is to be the result of an in-person observation made for the purpose of partially fulfilling the requirements of this course, and must include a complete and comprehensive report on any 2.5 hours of observation from the list of choices below, exclusive of breaks and recesses. The observation report shall include the type of observation, the name of the presiding officer, the physical location of the observation, the parties involved, the issues, any decisions made and your personal comments regarding how you “see” the proceedings. Please place emphasis on your personal comments, clearly including what you “bring to the table” (your personal background and why you selected your observation). NOTE: Dr. Flower is the only person who will read your reports. You should, prior to the observation, make notes on your preconceived notions, ideas, and perceptions on what you expect to observe. Your pre-work should then be contrasted or compared with your actual observations. Your “gut” reactions to issues, personalities, competencies and results will most likely be very accurate and should serve as the backbone of your report. DO NOT wait until the last minute to attend the observation since it is common for students to discover the scheduled or planned observation does not take place when the student thought it was to take place. It is permissible for students to observe the same activity. FINALLY, ALTHOUGH COURTROOM EXAMPLES ARE GIVEN IN CLASS, IT IS NOT SUGGESTED THE STUDENT OBSERVE A COURT PROCEEDING. THE STUDENT SHOULD CHOOSE THE GOVERNMENT ACTIVITY THAT MOST INTERESTS THE STUDENT. Usually, but not always, the best days to observe courts are Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Appropriate attire for any observation is that which would be worn for a job interview.
· Any session of the United States Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit*
· Any session of the United States District Court
· Any session of the United States Magistrate
· Any session of the Supreme Court of Georgia*
· Any session of the Georgia Court of Appeals*
· Any criminal or civil trial or probable cause hearing in Georgia Superior Court, State Court, Magistrate’s Court, Probate Court, or Juvenile Court
· Any divorce trial or hearing on temporary child custody, support or alimony in Superior Court
· Any session of divorce mediation
· Any open committee meeting of the Georgia General Assembly
· Any county or city commission meeting, especially planning meetings
· Any county board meeting, such as a zoning board
· Social Security disability hearings
· Driver’s license reinstatement hearings
· Any county or city school board meeting
· Any bankruptcy court session
· Any meeting of a federal, state, county, or local administrative agency or regulatory board
· Any open meeting of the University System Board of Regents
· Any county or city animal control facility operation
· Immigration court hearings
· Law enforcement ride-along (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday evenings ONLY) or fire department or county, state, or local governmental inspector ride along. The student may be required to undergo a background check, which can take up to 2 weeks.
· “Shadow” a government employee (not teachers), lawyer, law enforcement officer, judge, probation officer, or elected official
· Other governmental activities of your choice with Dr. Flower’s prior approval.
· Unacceptable—Personal court (including those of a friend or relative) or other personal experiences unless they are significant and used solely for the purpose of partially fulfilling the requirements of this course or are otherwise exceptional in nature. Preapproval by Dr. Flower is required. Also unacceptable are any employment-related circumstances. For example, if the student is presently or formerly involved in law enforcement, any observation concerning law enforcement or the criminal justice system is unacceptable. On-line, video, or TV observations are unacceptable, as are observations involving friends or relatives. Examples of this are a ride-along with a law enforcement officer who is a relative or friend, or a live video feed of a public meeting.
· Also unacceptable—uncontested divorce final hearings, pleas in criminal/traffic cases, any docket sounding, calendar calls, or arraignments in any court
*Students observing the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of Georgia, or the Georgia Court of Appeals are strongly advised to read the filed briefs in the cases to be observed prior to observing oral arguments. Failure to do so is likely to result in an exercise in futility and frustration. To the extent possible, students observing United States District Court or Georgia Superior Court cases are strongly advised to read the case files of cases they expect to observe.
The observation experience is designed to integrate the understanding gained from class and the observation to enable the student to make better choices and more informed decisions in the future. It will also serve to enhance the overall effectiveness as a student community participant, and later, in a chosen career. DO NOT ATTEND AN EXTRA CREDIT OPPORTUNITY OR AN OBSERVATION, OR ATTEMPT TO WRITE AN EXTRA CREDIT OR OBSERVATION REPORT OR MOVIE REVIEW WITHOUT A PRIOR WORKING KNOWLEDGE OF ALL OF THE REQUIREMENTS SET FORTH IN THIS SYLLABUS. All papers turned in for grading, including the observation report, must include the date, time, and location of the observation, and the name of the presiding officer.
Most students discover when they attend their chosen observation, they move from their comfort zone to their discomfort zone, with a few even moving into their alarm zone. This is usually the result of the student’s personal background, preconceived ideas about the experience, and the actual experience itself. Remember, the process is designed to expand the student’s self-created “box.”
The writing portion of the experience should be writing for learning, rather than writing after learning. It is a process rather than a product, and it may require considerable rewrites as a student’s thinking is refined. The student is expected to “connect the dots” between their personal background, observation, and classroom learning. No particular format is expected (such as APA or white book). The student will be graded down if grammar, punctuation, and spelling are not precise and accurate, or if margins or line spacing is incorrect. The observation report is expected to be well-organized, tightly unified, rhetorically effective, clearly developed, and syntactically smooth.
Most students create observation reports of not less than eight (8) pages, with many considerably more. While this assignment is student-generated, students are expected to treat this assignment as a significant project clearly displaying university-level work. In other words, a major effort is expected (major-greater than others in importance, great in scope or effect; effort-a difficult exertion of . . . will). Attachments such as dockets, agendas, programs are expected and do not count in the minimum page suggestion, nor do cover pages.
The student should begin by making notes on any preconceived ideas and perceptions about the observations, such as:
· What does the student expect to see?
· What does the student expect to learn?
· What is the emotional reaction to entering the place of observation, asking for information, riding the elevator, entering the building, listening to others, or engaging with the officials, parties, attorneys, judges, participants, or mediator?
For example, if you are observing a court proceeding:
· What did you think a courthouse or court would look like?
· What about entering the courthouse and finding the courtroom?
· What about the size of the courtroom and the court personnel present?
· What was the judge like? Was the judge fair?
· Were the attorneys competent? Did the “truth” come out?
· Was “justice” served?
In the observation report, the student should:
· Include the student’s background. What does the student “bring to the table” and why the student chose their particular observation.
· Describe the experience objectively and subjectively.
· Analyze the experience with an eye toward personal growth, academic enhancement and civic engagement.
· Articulate the learning to the student’s academic career and personal goals.
· Comments such as “I enjoyed this assignment”, “I learned a lot”, “Thank you for requiring this project”, or words to that effect have little meaning without substantial and thorough explanation.
· “Dot connecting”—The observant student will understand and write about the “dot connecting” in the student’s life, the observation itself, the concepts taught in class, and the resulting learning experience. First person writing is acceptable.