U.S. Courts Design Guide
Courtroom ceiling heights must be in proportion to the size of the space and the
number of people using the space and reflect the solemnity of proceedings. The
raised judge's bench and high ceiling height contribute to the order and decorum of
the proceedings. The ceiling height criteria in the Guide were calculated using
generally accepted principles of architectural proportion and by direct observation
of effective courtroom designs. Ceiling height criteria achieve the functional
qualities needed by the federal courts; however, ceiling heights should not be
limited by these criteria if additional height is available at minimal additional cost.
U.S. Court of Appeals
Two factors affect the size of en banc courtrooms: the number of judges sitting en
banc; and the number of people attending or participating in ceremonial functions.
As shown in Table 4.1, en banc courtrooms require 3,000 net square feet (NSF) or
278.7 net square meters (Nm2) and a proportional ceiling height of 18 feet (5500
Panel courtrooms, which are used by a panel of three judges, require 1,800 NSF
(167.2 Nm2) and a proportional ceiling height of 16 feet (4900 mm).
The well of both types of courtrooms must accommodate an en banc or panel
judges' bench, court personnel workstations, and at least two counsel tables.
U.S. District Court
USDC jury trials require a courtroom of approximately 2,400 NSF (223 Nm2) and
a ceiling height of 16 feet (4900 mm). The well of the courtroom must
accommodate a judge's bench, court personnel workstations, a witness box, an
18-person jury box, and at least four counsel tables. This allows for 15-20
lawyers, plaintiffs, defendants, and interpreters. Space must be included for
exhibit display and USMS personnel stationed around the perimeter of the well.
In the USDC courtroom well, ten to 20 people typically are present in addition to
court personnel and the seated jury. Even larger groups of people are not
uncommon. For example, a criminal trial involving six in-custody defendants
could generate 50 or more participants, including the judge, courtroom deputy
clerk, court reporter/recorder, law clerk, two Assistant U.S. Attorneys, two case
agents, the six defendants and their defense attorneys, 12 deputy U.S. Marshals,
18 jurors, a witness, and an interpreter. Courtrooms frequently experiencing cases
of this size must be designed with a large well and minimum seating capacity.