Legal Observer Program


What are Legal Observers?

DC NLG Legal Observer Program is part of a comprehensive system of legal support coordinated by the National Lawyers Guild designed to enable people to express their political views as fully as possible, without unconstitutional disruption or interference by the government and with the least possible consequences from the criminal justice system.

Legal Observers work under the supervision of Legal Observer Coordinators, who are experienced legal observers who have received advanced training. The Program works to build and maintain principled, trust-based relationships with the activists and organizations who request our services.

Who are Legal Observers?

Legal Observers are typically, but not exclusively, law students, legal workers, and lawyers who may or may not be licensed locally. Legal Observers are trained and directed by Guild attorneys, who often have established attorney-client relationships with activist organizations, or are in litigation challenging police tactics at political protests.

How to Request Legal Observers?

Email We encourage organizers to contact us as soon as possible prior to the action, so that we can in order to increase our ability to mobilize our volunteer LOs. We consider your request for Legal Observers to be privileged legal communication and information provided will be kept confidential and never be voluntarily disclosed to anyone.

What Legal Observers Do?

The primary role of the Legal Observer is to be the eyes and ears of the legal team — to observe and record incidents and the activities of law enforcement in relation to the demonstrators. This includes documenting any arrest, use of force, intimidating display of force, denial of access to public spaces like parks and sidewalks, and any other behavior on the part of law enforcement that appears to restrict demonstrators’ ability to express their political views.

This documentation is done in a thorough and professional manner, so that lawyers representing arrestees or bringing an action against the police generally will be able to objectively evaluate the constitutionality of government conduct.

What Don’t Legal Observers Do?

Legal Observers don’t give legal, tactical, or political advice, negotiate with the police for demonstrators, or speak to the press or public for demonstrators. We don’t interfere in arrests. We don’t give away confidential information about individuals or groups. Our notes, photographs, video and audio tape, and digitally-recorded materials are privileged and protected.

How Do You Become a Legal Observer?

Are you committed to helping people exercise their First Amendment rights of speech, expression, and assembly? Become a Legal Observer and provide frontline legal support. If you are interested in becoming a Legal Observer, please email