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Old 12-30-2003, 07:50 AM
Liberal Liberal is offline
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: Gone
Posts: 39,401
Do plaintiffs always sit to the left, and defendants to the right before a judge?

Or is this just a misimpression that I get from TV? If it is the case, why? Is there some interesting story from history as to how it began? Is it the same in the US and throughout the world?
Old 12-30-2003, 11:38 AM
epeepunk epeepunk is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: East of the Mason-Dixon
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While on jury duty, I've been in courtrooms that had the jury box on the left and the right. The prosecution (IIRC) sits next to the jury, and the defendant sits on the other side.
Old 12-30-2003, 11:39 AM
Max Torque Max Torque is offline
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Location: Raiderville, TX
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In my admittedly limited experience, yes, it is normally that way, and I don't know the origin of the tradition. However, I can tell you that I recently read a motion by a criminal defense attorney requesting that the defense be allowed to sit where the prosecution normally sat. The reasoning was that the prosecution sat next to the jury, and the friends and family members of the victim would sit behind the prosecution. The defense attorney argued that the overpowering presence of these family members so close to the jury was unduly influencing them by intimidation. Not sure if the motion was granted; I'd guess it wasn't.
Old 12-30-2003, 12:45 PM
wevets wevets is offline
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Location: hobgoblin of geographers
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IIRC, last time I was on jury duty, we were on the left and closer to the defense.
Old 12-30-2003, 06:32 PM
Spoke Spoke is offline
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Location: Pit of the Peach State
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The party with the burden of proof (the plaintiff in a civil case, the prosecution in a criminal case) traditionally sits closest to the jury. (It is considered psychologically advantageous to be seated next to the jury.) The jury box location varies by courtroom, and could be on either side.

This seating arrangement is by tradition only (in my jurisdiction at least), and I do not know that it is formalized by rule anywhere (though it may be).

Even so, most judges will enforce this tradition if called upon to do so.

I have known defense lawyers who try to get to the courtroom early to grab the table next to the jury, often just to rattle opposing counsel. I hate that sort of petty gamesmanship, but you do see it.
Old 12-30-2003, 11:50 PM
minty green minty green is offline
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 8,834
Texas attorney here. As I generally represent defendants, I am usually on the left of the judge. When I recently counterclaimed against a plaintiff, who subsequently dropped his own claims in an effort to avoid having his ass handed to him, the (former) plaintiff's attorney remarked to the judge that he was not used to sitting on the left side of the courtroom as the functional defendant.

(Left and right measured from the attorney's viewpoint, not the judge's.)
Old 12-31-2003, 12:17 AM
First Amongst Daves First Amongst Daves is offline
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Posts: 549
In common law jurisdictions for civil (non-criminal) actions, at trial the plaintiff sits on the left of the judge, and the defendant on the right, irrespective of whether the defendant might have brought any counterclaim.

In interlocutory (pre-trial) processes, the party which brings the application (eg for further and better discovery, or for leave to administer interrogatories, or whatever) sits on the judge's left, irrespective of whether he or she or it is the plaintiff.

I have personally been involved in an appearance before a judge where both parties have brought an application which were each listed before the judge for the same time, and the two counsel (of which I was one) squabbled over who got to sit on the judge's left, because of the strategic advantage of addressing the judge first.

I was also once involved in a trial involving 4 independantly represented defendants, and half the defendants sat on the bar table, and the other half spread out on the instructor's table. But the plaintiff still sat at the bar table on the judge's left.

In the unusual situation of more than one independently represented plaintiffs, they share the left hand side of the bar table.


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