Legal Studies 3080

Courtroom Organization and Personnel


Even if you have never been in a courtroom, you have a pretty good idea of what one looks like from television and the movies. You are probably also familiar with some of the courtroom personnel, though perhaps not all. Many people work within the court system before, during, and after trials. These people are necessary for bringing witnesses and evidence before the court, for communicating information about cases, and for helping people involved in the criminal justice process.



The judge is a public officer who has been appointed by either the provincial or federal government to administer the law in a courtroom. The duties of a judge include presiding over what goes on in the courtroom and administering the law. Sometimes a judge is referred to as the bench in reference to the elevated bench on which judges once sat while court was in session.

Witnesses are people who have information pertaining to the case being tried. Both the Crown and the defence can call witnesses to testify in a criminal trial.


The Crown prosecutor  is a lawyer employed by the Attorney General and who is responsible for reviewing the evidence in a criminal case and presenting it in court. The Crown prosecutor works closely with the police to build a case against a defendant. He or she must present all the information that has been uncovered pertaining to the case and cannot legally withhold any that might be favourable to an accused.


The defence lawyer, or defence counsel, is hired (or retained ) privately by an accused (or assigned by Legal Aid if the accused can't afford the fees) to act in his or her best interests before, during, and after the trial. It is the job of the defence lawyer to gather evidence, collect favourable witnesses, and research  the relevant law in an attempt to make the best case possible for his or her client.

The accused, or defendant , is the person who is charged with having committed an offence and who is being tried.


The jury is a group of people selected from the community to listen to the two sides - the accused and the Crown - make their cases and come to a decision. Only the most serious crimes must be tried before a jury; less serious ones allow an accused a choice as to the type of trial, while summary conviction cases and the least serious indictable ones are always tried before a judge alone.



Observers
are simply people from the public who, for whatever reason, have decided to attend court and watch the proceedings. They may be people involved in cases scheduled to be heard later in the day; they may be friends or relatives of people involved in cases or people otherwise interested in a particular case. They may be representatives of the press, Legal Studies students, or simply people interested in courtroom proceedings.


The court clerk is a court employee who carries out administrative duties. Among other things, clerks check all documents for compliance with rules, keep records of courtroom proceedings, sign judgments, and keep custody of records and exhibits.

The court recorder is an employee whose job It is to record, word for word, what is said in the courtroom during a trial - testimony, questions, and comments. It is the responsibility of the court recorder to ensure that everything is recorded accurately so that testimony can be reviewed at any time.