1. AwesomeTingle
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    AwesomeTingle Member

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    Court Proceedings

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by AwesomeTingle, Apr 19, 2011.

    I'm currently writing, or at least trying to write, a story that takes place in court. My question is: How do court proceedings go? How do they start and how do they end? What are specific words that are always said at specific times? I know things like "All rise for Judge Johnson" or "do you swear to tell the truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth?" I need other things that aren't as commonly known, if any. I've got the middle of the story, but I need a beginning and an end.
    *note: I'm writing in a script format,
    ex)
    Judge: blah blah blah
    Defendant: blah blah blah
    Lawyer 1: blah blah blah
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Most court sessions are public. You can attend, although you generally have to sit quietly and pay attention to the proceedings. In other words, scribbling in a notrebook would be frowned upon.

    Still, you can attend sessions, and write down your notes outside the courtroom during recess. It should be enough to gather the kind of material you are looking for, and you will have a far better understanding of what goes on that you will get secondhand by posting here.

    Grand jury sessions are closed, and some trials may be closed at the request of one or both partries to the dispute. Also, any trial with a minor as a defendent or a victim will probably be closed to protect theirr identity and privacy. But you should have little trouble finding plenty of open court sessions you can attend.
     
  3. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    If you have cable there is also a court tv. Not like Judge Judy, lol, I mean actual court cases if you're not able to go sit in a court room. You can also look up "court proceedings" on youtube, there are lots of videos of actual court cases :D
     
  4. Hightower March
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    Hightower March New Member

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    IIRC both sides always have access to the evidence that's going to be presented. This is so they won't be caught off-guard and have a chance to form a response to what they expect the arguments are going to be. Surprising the opponent with evidence that you've had hidden (while certainly dramatic) can't legally take place.

    If an exhibit is something like a book, though, I don't think they have to make known which page numbers they're going to submit as evidence. There's room for some tricky play there.
     
  5. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Where I live, the protocols from most court cases are publicly available too.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good advice above... you can also study novels set in courtrooms written by actual attorneys:

    erle stanley gardner
    louis auchincloss
    harper lee
    scott turow
    john grisham
    richard north patterson
    steve martini
    linda fairstein
    lisa scottoline
    david baldacci
    alafair burke
    john lescroart
    john mortimer [for uk court procedures]

    and study movies with scenes set in courtrooms... includes many of turow's and grisham's novels, pretty much all of gardner's and mortimer's... and of course, lee's classic...
     
  7. FedRafaFan
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    FedRafaFan New Member

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    Not all courtrooms are the same and judges can run their courtroom pretty much how they want. But, there are things that typically happen. I am assuming this is a criminal case.

    Typically the bailiff will says "All rise," and when the judge is seated, "Be seated and come to order." They don't always say the judge's name, but sometimes they do. Sometimes, though, a bailiff will just say, "Remain seated and come to order," and not have everybody stand up.

    When a witness is called they are given the oath by the court clerk. "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," is used sometimes. But more often I've heard, "Do you solemnly affirm that the testimony you shall now give in the cause now pending before this court shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?" And when the witness is seated, the clerk instructs: "Please state your name and spell the last for the record."

    The attorney then waits for the judge to indicate that they can begin questioning. Usually the judge says something like, "You may proceed."

    During direct examination (when the attorney is questioning the witness that he called), the attorney is not allowed to ask leading questions. A leading question is one that suggests the answer in the question. "You saw the defendant hit Mr. Jones, didn't you," is a leading question that would not be permissible on direct. Leading questions are permissible and used extensively during cross-examination.

    When an attorney objects, they say, "Objection," and then state the grounds for the objection. In TV dramas, the attorney usually just stands up and launches into a speech about what he doesn't like about the question or the witness' answer. This does not (or should not) happen in actual courtrooms. Some objections are, leading, lack of foundation, speculation, hearsay.

    Judges refer to attorneys as "Counselor." Attorneys refer to the judge as "Your honor" or, less often, "judge." When the judge is going to begin hearing argument or start a proceeding, he usually asks if counsel is ready to proceed or if there are preliminary matters. The prosecutor always calls the defendant "the defendant" and the defense attorney will always call him by his last name or "my client." The defendant typically does not talk in court unless he is testifying. The prosecution is typically referred to as "the People" (especially when referring to themselves) and sometimes as "the district attorney."

    I've never seen a judge use a gavel, though this may be regional.

    I know this is long and most of this stuff will probably slow your story down :) The best way for you to familiarize yourself is to see a live proceeding, as others have suggested. Unfortunately most of the courtroom dialogue is boring and for formality's sake, which does not translate well to a dramatic story.
     
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  8. Finhorn
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    Finhorn Senior Member

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    The courts I've observed in (back in the day when I was studying law) had no trouble with me taking notes. Sometimes one lawyer or another would ask me (during a break) what I was doing, and when I told him he'd take the time to explain stuff to me.

    They're a friendly bunch who for the most part like what they do. It's been my experience that if you catch one who's not busy, like most everyone else, they're willing to tell you about their jobs. So I recommend research. Watch some videos, get your questions down on paper, then spend a day in court. When someone has time, stop him or her and ask a few of your questions.

    I remember the judges having gavels, but not using them.
     
  9. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    The UK on line public archives have a court records section - I've never checked it out but, It may be of value to you?
     
  10. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or there's BBC's Judge John Deed (although my mother--who is a solicitor and law professor--said that some of the ways they addressed each other, particularly calling a UK high court judge 'Judge', was incorrect). And, years ago, there was a British series called Crown Court. I don't know if any episodes can be viewed on DVD or youtube.
     
  11. Mangoo-the-Monkey
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    Mangoo-the-Monkey New Member

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    I know that christians have to swaer on the bible, and the judge calls every thing together. I think that there is a 'Head juryman/woman who announces what they find the deffendant
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in the us, that person is usually called the 'jury foreman/foreperson'...
     
  13. GStohl
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    GStohl New Member

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    I'm a lawyer in real-life, so I've asked myself this very question in preparing for hearings. I recommend you do two things:

    1. Get on Half.com or another used book site and look for old editions of trial procedure textbooks. These will map out the steps of a trial, oral argument, hearing, etc. It will also give you the vocabulary you need. (Pre-trial briefs, etc.)

    2. Do an internet search for trial transcripts. Practically all trials are transcribed word-for-word. If you can find a one-day trial regarding a fender bender or whatever, you'll pick up some good parlance.

    Feel free to contact me privately with particular questions.
     
  14. dnsralg
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    dnsralg Senior Member

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    My experiences with facing a judge were pretty similar to the movies. Since the courts are popularized in the media, most people wouldn't question if you went along with the stereotypical court environment.
     
  15. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    It would behoove you to invest some time reading any of the aforementioned authors
     
  16. author97
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    author97 Member

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    Try attending a court session-otherwise look it up on a reliable source.
     
  17. GStohl
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    GStohl New Member

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    This is actually the best advice. Anyone can attend public trials by default (unless the judge makes the hearings confidential, which usually only happens in boring corporate litigation). Not only will you pick up some vocabulary and a feel for the courtroom, but you might get some good brainstorming material out of it.
     
  18. dnsralg
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    dnsralg Senior Member

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    And for juvenile cases where their records will be sealed. In which case they meet in chambers.
     

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