Chapter 4: Courtrooms
U.S. District Court (Including Magistrate Judges)
Judicial Officers. A single judge presides over civil and criminal proceedings,
although a limited number of USDC cases are heard by panels of three judges. A
magistrate judge presides over a narrower range of criminal and civil cases.
Courtroom Personnel. For both USDC and magistrate judge's courtrooms, a
courtroom deputy clerk and court reporter/recorder are present. In USDC
courtrooms, one or two law clerks are also present at the discretion of the judge.
Security Personnel. Typically, one or more USMS personnel are present in the
courtroom. The total number of USMS personnel depends upon the nature of the
matter being heard. In criminal cases, two USMS personnel are present for each
in-custody defendant in the courtroom.
Attorneys. At least one attorney is present on each side of the case. Trial
attorneys can be assisted by paralegals and other staff, both of whom are
positioned in the courtroom at the discretion of the presiding judge. In USDC
criminal cases, U.S. Government attorneys are usually assisted in court by case
agents from the investigative agency involved.
Litigants. The number of litigants depends entirely upon the number of parties
and the nature and complexity of the case. For civil cases, the number of litigants
on each side might range from one to ten, although more than ten litigants are not
unusual. In criminal cases, the number of defendants might range from one to 20,
although cases with more than 20 defendants do occur. Generally, each defendant
is represented by an attorney.
Witnesses and Interpreters. Witnesses are used. An interpreter is furnished if
required by a witness.
Jurors. In USDC courtrooms, the jury for criminal trials consists of up to 18
persons (12 jurors and up to six alternates). The jury for civil trials consists of six
to 12 persons. In magistrate judge courtrooms, the jury for civil trials is
determined in consultation with the court.
A 12-member jury is typically selected from a panel of 45-60 potential jurors; a
six-member jury is selected from 15-25 potential jurors. The number of potential
jurors can equal 100 or more in cases with heavy media coverage, multiple parties,
or lengthy trials. During impaneling, the potential jurors can be seated in the
spectator area of the courtroom. These seats can be made available to the public
after the jury has been impaneled. During jury selection, potential jury members
must be separated from the general public sitting in the spectator area.
Spectators. The right to a public trial necessitates a certain volume of general
public seating. Demand for spectator, news media, and family seating varies
depending on public interest and the number of parties in a particular case. Most