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A courtroom is the enclosed space in which
courts of law A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance wi ...

courts of law
are held in front of a
judge A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is s ...

judge
. A number of courtrooms, which may also be known as "courts", may be housed in a
courthouse A courthouse or court house is a building that is home to a local court of law and often the regional county government as well, although this is not the case in some larger cities. The term is common in North America. In most other English-speak ...

courthouse
. In recent years, courtrooms have been equipped with audiovisual technology to permit everyone present to clearly hear testimony and see exhibits.


By country


United States

The judge generally sits behind a raised desk, known as the
bench
bench
. Behind the judge are the great seal of the jurisdiction and the flags of the appropriate federal and state governments. Judges usually wear a plain black robe (a requirement in many jurisdictions). An exception was the late
U.S. Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States of America. It has ultimate (and largely discretionary) appellate jurisdiction over all federal and state court cases that invo ...

U.S. Supreme Court
Chief Justice#REDIRECT Chief justice {{R from move ...

Chief Justice
William Rehnquist William Hubbs Rehnquist ( ; October 1, 1924 – September 3, 2005) was an American lawyer and jurist who served on the Supreme Court of the United States for 33 years, as an associate justice from 1972 to 1986 and as Chief Justice from 1986 unti ...

William Rehnquist
, who broke tradition by adorning his robe with four gold stripes on each sleeve. (Rehnquist reportedly said that he had been inspired to add the stripes by his having seen such stripes worn by the character of the judge, in a local production of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic operatic spoof of English jurisprudence, ''
Trial by Jury#REDIRECT Trial by Jury#REDIRECT Trial by Jury {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...

Trial by Jury
''.) Adjacent to the bench are the witness stand and the desks where the
court clerk A court clerk (British English clerk to the court, ; American English clerk of the court or clerk of court, ) is an officer of the court whose responsibilities include maintaining records of a court. Another duty is to administer oaths to witnesses ...

court clerk
and the
court reporter A court reporter or court stenographer, formerly referred to as a stenotype operator, shorthand reporter, or law reporter, is a person whose occupation is to capture the live testimony in proceedings using oice writingand/or stenographic machine ...

court reporter
sit. The courtroom is divided into two parts by a barrier known as the
bar Bar or BAR may refer to: Food *Bar (establishment), a retail establishment that serves alcoholic beverages; also the counter at which drinks are served. * Candy bar, a type of candy that is in the shape of a bar * Chocolate bar, a bar-shaped piec ...

bar
. The bar may be an actual
railing Railing or railings may refer to: * Guard rail, a structure blocking an area from access * Handrail, a structure designed to provide support on or near a staircase * Grab bar, a structure to provide support elsewhere, for instance in a bathroom or ...

railing
, or an imaginary barrier. The
bailiff A bailiff (from Middle English baillif, Old French ''baillis'', ''bail'' "custody, charge, office"; cf. bail, based on the adjectival form, baiulivus, of Latin ''bajulus'', carrier, manager) is a manager, overseer or custodian; a legal officer to ...

bailiff
stands (or sits) against one wall and keeps order in the courtroom. On one side is the judge's bench, the tables for the plaintiff, the defendant, and their respective counsel, and a separate group of seats known as the jury box where the jury sits. Apart from the parties to the case and any witnesses, only the lawyers can literally pass the bar (court personnel and jury members usually enter through separate doors), and this is the reason why the term "the bar" has come to refer to the legal profession as a whole (see
bar association A bar association is a professional association of lawyers as generally organized in countries following the Anglo-American types of jurisprudence. The word bar is derived from the old English/European custom of using a physical railing to separa ...

bar association
). There is usually a podium or lectern between the two tables where the lawyers may stand when they argue their case before the judge. In the British Commonwealth (and many other countries), a courtroom used for trials of criminal cases often has a dock: a space exclusively reserved for seating a criminal defendant. It is marked off with a barrier, like the jury box and the witness stand. As late as the 1970s, some American courtrooms also had docks, but they gradually fell out of use. Defendants argued that they were prejudicial and interfered with the accused's
right to counsel Right to counsel means a defendant has a right to have the assistance of counsel (i.e., lawyers) and, if the defendant cannot afford a lawyer, requires that the government appoint one or pay the defendant's legal expenses. The right to counsel is ge ...

right to counsel
, since defense attorneys were traditionally seated at the table for defense counsel and were not normally allowed to sit next to the dock. There is usually an open space between the bench and the counsel tables, because of the court clerk and court reporter's tables in front of the bench and the jury box on the side. This space is called the well. It is extremely disrespectful to the court for persons who are not court employees to directly "traverse the well" without permission—that is, to walk directly towards the bench across the well—and some courts have rules expressly forbidding this. Instead, if documents need to be given to or taken from the judge, attorneys are normally expected to approach the court clerk or bailiff, who acts as an intermediary. During trials, attorneys will ask the court's permission to traverse the well or "approach the bench" for "sidebar" conferences with the judge. On the other side of the bar is the gallery, with benches and chairs for the general public. In some cases the gallery is separated from the rest of the room by
bulletproof glass Bulletproof glass (ballistic glass, transparent armor, and bullet-resistant glass) is a strong and optically transparent material that is particularly resistant to penetration by projectiles. Like any other material, it isn’t completely impenet ...

bulletproof glass
. All of the above applies only to trial courts. Appellate courts in the United States are not finders of fact, so they do not use juries or receive
evidence Evidence, broadly construed, is anything presented in support of an assertion, because evident things are undoubted. There are two kind of evidence: intellectual evidence (the obvious, the evident) and empirical evidence (proofs). The mentioned ...

evidence
into the record; that is the trial court's job.
In re Zeth S.
', 31 Cal. 4th 396, 2 Cal. Rptr. 3d 683, 73 P.3d 541 (2003).
Therefore, in an appellate court, there is neither a witness stand nor a jury box, and the bench is much larger to accommodate multiple judges or justices. The walls are often partially or completely wood-paneled. This is a matter of style and tradition, but some jurisdictions have elected to construct courtrooms with a more "modern" appearance. Some courtroom settings are little more than a
closed circuit television Closed-circuit television (CCTV), also known as video surveillance, is the use of video cameras to transmit a signal to a specific place, on a limited set of monitors. It differs from broadcast television in that the signal is not openly tran ...

closed circuit television
camera transmitting the proceedings to a correctional facility elsewhere in order to protect the court from violent defendants who view the proceedings on television within a jail conference room and are allowed
duplex communications
duplex communications
with the judge and other officers of the court. Many courtrooms are equipped with a speaker system where the judge can toggle a switch to generate
white noise In signal processing, white noise is a random signal having equal intensity at different frequencies, giving it a constant power spectral density. The term is used, with this or similar meanings, in many scientific and technical disciplines, in ...

white noise
during
sidebar
sidebar
conversations with the attorneys so that the jury and spectators cannot hear what is being discussed off-record. Multiple courtrooms may be housed in a
courthouse A courthouse or court house is a building that is home to a local court of law and often the regional county government as well, although this is not the case in some larger cities. The term is common in North America. In most other English-speak ...

courthouse
. The schedule of official court proceedings is called a
docket
docket
.


United Kingdom


England and Wales

Courtrooms vary considerably in their layout, reflecting the history and development of the building. Some historic courtrooms remain in use and are generally wood panelled; most newer courtrooms are not panelled and generally have a modern appearance. Depending on the layout of the room, a claimant may sit on either the right or left in a civil court, just as the prosecution may sit on either side (usually the opposite side to the jury) in a criminal court. In a criminal court, where the defendant is held in custody prior to court appearance, the defendant will be escorted by the security firm that has the contract to serve that court. In rare circumstances in civil trials a bailiff or someone else charged to keep order may be present (for example if a tenant who is due to be evicted for violent behaviour or a defendant arrives in court drunk). Unless prevented by disability, advocates are expected address the court standing up, from the position where they seated before addressing the court. Appellate courts may hear evidence (and also be finders of fact) as well a review legal argument. In such cases witness evidence may be necessary and many appellate courts therefore have witness stands. Courtrooms for hearings of the
Family Court Family court was originally created to be a Court of Equity convened to decide matters and make orders in relation to family law, such as custody of children and could disregard certain legal requirements as long as the petitioner/plaintiff came in ...

Family Court
which consider matters such as
custody of children Child custody is a legal term regarding ''guardianship'' which is used to describe the legal and practical relationship between a parent or guardian and a child in that person's care. Child custody consists of ''legal custody'', which is the right ...

custody of children
and
divorce Divorce also known as dissolution of marriage, is the process of terminating a marriage or marital union. Divorce usually entails the canceling or reorganizing of the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, thus dissolving the bonds ...

divorce
are generally smaller and more informal in layout than those for criminal and civil proceedings. The
Royal Coat of Arms
Royal Coat of Arms
is placed above and behind the judge or presiding magistrates to symbolise the fact that trials in England and Wales are carried out in the name of
The Crown The Crown is the state in all its aspects within the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth realms and their subdivisions (such as Crown dependencies, overseas territories, provinces, or states). Legally ill-defined, the term has different meaning ...

The Crown
. The only exceptions to this in the
City of London The City of London is a city, ceremonial county and local government district that contains the historic centre and the primary central business district (CBD) of London. It constituted most of London from its settlement by the Romans in the 1s ...

City of London
courts where the judge or magistrate sits below the arms of the City of London as well as the Crown, a historic anomaly. In England and Wales the Royal Coat of Arms is displayed prominently over the main external entrance to the courthouse.


Scotland

As in other countries, the judge or sheriff sits on the
bench
bench
. Directly below the bench is the clerk's station which usually has a computer to allow the clerk to get on with Court Disposal work during proceedings. Directly in front of the clerk is the well of court which has a semi-circular table at which all the advocates sit during proceedings. The
Procurator Fiscal#REDIRECT Procurator fiscal {{R from other capitalisation ...

Procurator Fiscal
or
Advocate Depute The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is the independent public prosecution service for Scotland, and is a Ministerial Department of the Scottish Government. The department is headed by Her Majesty's Lord Advocate, who under the Scottis ...

Advocate Depute
always sits in the seat at the right of the clerk during criminal proceedings. Behind the well of the court is the dock in which the accused will sit during proceedings. Dependent on the style of the courtroom, the
jury A jury is a sworn body of people (the jurors) convened to render an impartial verdict (a finding of fact on a question) officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Juries developed in England during the Middle Ages ...

jury
box will either be on the right or left hand side of the well of the court. Scotland is unique in the western world in that it has 15 jurors. Usually to the right or left of the bench (again dependent on style and always directly opposite the jury) slightly raised and facing forward is the stand where any witness who is called will give evidence. The stand is designed so that any solicitor examining a witness as well as the judge/sheriff may get a good view of the testimony. At the far side of the courtroom directly opposite the jury box and behind the stand are seats for journalists who are attached to the court and the court social worker. Seats for members of the public are the back of the courtroom. There is no
court reporter A court reporter or court stenographer, formerly referred to as a stenotype operator, shorthand reporter, or law reporter, is a person whose occupation is to capture the live testimony in proceedings using oice writingand/or stenographic machine ...

court reporter
in Scotland; normal summary cases are simply minuted by the clerk indicating the disposal. If the case is a solemn (more serious) case involving a jury or if the case has a sexual element then proceedings will be tape recorded which is done under the supervision of the clerk. Like in England and Wales, in Scotland the
Royal Coat of Arms
Royal Coat of Arms
is placed above and behind the judge or presiding sheriffs to symbolise the fact that trials are carried out in the name of
The Crown The Crown is the state in all its aspects within the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth realms and their subdivisions (such as Crown dependencies, overseas territories, provinces, or states). Legally ill-defined, the term has different meaning ...

The Crown
. However, the Scottish version (unicorn on viewer's left, motto ''Nemo Me Impune Lacessit'', etc.) is always used. The arms also appears prominently over the main external entrance to the courthouse.


Gallery


References

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