Wednesday, February 13, 2008

odd "appellate" courtrooms

Courtroom_1_lg To what extent does the physical arrangement of the courtroom affect an advocate's presentation and ability to persuade the members of the court?

In a national moot court tournament conducting several preliminary rounds, "courtrooms" are of course at a premium, but in many instances the student teams find themselves facing very odd configurations. Sometimes the rounds are conducted using trial courtrooms after hours. In those situations, I've often seen one judge on the bench, one in the witness box, and one in the court reporter's seat. At least that arrangement puts them more or less in the advocate's same visual field.

Then there are the law school classrooms. Where do the judges sit? On "benches" in which three judges wedge themselves behind a single desk, with a student advocate standing before them and looking down? In a row of classroom seats, with the advocate behind the professor's lectern? And where is the timekeeper? Within view, or off to one side--which forces the student attorney to make furtive sidelong glances to determine how much time remains?

If national moot court tournaments are intended to promote and improve appellate advocacy, let's start by doing a better job of arranging the moot courtrooms. Do readers have suggestions for tournament organizers?


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In a standard stadium-style classroom, it is easy to approximate the correct spacial relationship by seating the three judges a few rows up and having the students speak from the well. There isn't always room to set up tables so they can sit where they would in court when not at the podium, but at least the set-up approximates an appellate courtroom for the student actually speaking to the court. It worked quite well when I was judging.

Posted by: Greg May | Feb 14, 2008 1:40:22 AM

I like your suggestion for the rooms with amphitheater-type seating.
What other kinds of innovative furniture-moving might we try?

Posted by: Coleen Barger | Feb 14, 2008 4:39:35 PM

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