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The Design of the Courtroom
The majority of Seattle personal injury claims don’t go to trial, meaning the claimants won’t see the inside of a courtroom. Most personal injury claims can settle successfully during pretrial negotiations, especially with help from experienced attorneys. A court trial, however, could result in higher compensation for plaintiffs. If your lawyer believes going to court is in your best interests, it can help you to know what to expect from your trial. Start with the design of the courtroom.
Front and center in the courtroom sits the bench. This is where the Honorable Judge and his or her staff sit. The bench is an elevated stage that serves as the center focal point for the rest of the courtroom. The judge sits the highest. At the next level sits the court clerk and the bailiff. The clerk documents the trial and takes care of evidence. The bailiff is in charge of handling the jurors, both parties, and everyone else in the courtroom.
The Witness Stand
To the right of the judge, as part of the bench, is the witness stand. This is where witnesses sit, swear to tell the truth, and testify as part of the trial process. The witness stand sits between the judge and the jury box, so both can hear and see the witness clearly.
The Jury Box
What makes a court trial so special is that a jury helps to make the final decisions. During a personal injury case, for example, the jury determines how much a claimant should receive in pain and suffering damages. The jury is one of the most important elements of the courtroom, and therefore gets a designated location at the front of the room, in the jury “box.”
The jury box contains chairs, usually behind a partition to separate it from the rest of the room. The rest of the courtroom will stand when the jury enters and exits. Only the judge may speak to the jury while a trial is in process. When the jury convenes, they do so in a private room.
The “well” of a courtroom is where the plaintiff, the defendant, and their attorneys sit during the trial. It consists of two sets of chairs and tables, one on either side of the courtroom, positioned to face the witness stand and bench. The well also describes the empty space between the bench and where the parties sit – the “stage” where the attorneys state their pieces. The well is the neutral zone between both sides.
The gallery is the remainder of the courtroom, where people who come to watch the trial sit. It contains benches or chairs that are usually open to the public. The judge has the authority to remove anyone from the gallery who is disrupting the case. People in the gallery and the well face forward, toward the front of the courtroom. The bench and witness stand face out, toward the well and the gallery. The jury box is against one side of the courtroom, where jurors can see the gallery, the well, and the witness stand.
Seattle Courtroom Design
Although all courtrooms follow the same main design traits and elements, it can help to know exactly what your specific courtroom will look like. Visit the Seattle Municipal Court website to view photographs of the courtroom and for more specific information about the building, parking, offices, and presiding judges. The court occupies nine of the 13 floors in the Seattle Justice Center building. You’ll find customer service on the first floor, court administration on the 11th floor, and the records unit on the third floor. Find your courtroom ahead of time to make the day of your trial as easy as possible.