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7.8: Courtroom Players- Judges and Court Staff

  • Page ID
    43634
    • pexels-photo-923681.jpg
    • Contributed by Alison S. Burke, David Carter, Brian Fedorek, Tiffany Morey, Lore Rutz-Burri, & Shanell Sanchez
    • Professors (Criminology and Criminal Justice) at Southern Oregon University
    • Sourced from OpenOregon

    Felony Justice: An organizational analysis of criminal courts, James Eisenstein and Herbert Jacob, coined the term “courtroom workgroup.” [1] They specifically referred to the cooperative working relationship between prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges in working together (as opposed to an adversarial relationship that the public might expect) to efficiently resolve most of the cases in the criminal courts. This chapter more generally uses the term to include all the individuals working in the criminal courts—judges, attorneys, and the variety of court staff.

    accusatory phase (the pre-trial phase) and adjudicatory phase (the trial phase) of the criminal justice process include individuals who regularly work together in the trial courts. The prosecutor files the accusatory instrument called either an information or an indictment, and represents the state in plea bargaining, on pretrial motions, during the trial, and in the sentencing phase. The defense attorney represents the defendant after charges have been filed, through the pre-trial process, in a trial, and during sentencing, and maybe on the appeal as well. Judges, aided by several court personnel, conduct the pretrial, trial, and sentencing hearings. Prosecutors, defense counsel, and judges perform different roles, but all are concerned with the judicial process and the interpretation of the law. These law professionals are graduates of law schools and have passed the bar examination establishing their knowledge of the law and their ability to do legal analysis. As persons admitted by the state or federal bar associations to the practice of law, they are subject to the same legal codes of professional responsibility, disciplinary rules, and ethical rules and opinions for lawyers. Although the American criminal justice system is said to represent the adversarial model, the reality is that prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and court staff work with cooperation and consensus rather than conflict. This is understandable when considering the common goal of efficient and expedition case processing and prescribed and agreed upon rules for achieving those goals.

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    Judicial Clerk, Law Clerk, and Judicial Assistants

    swear in the witnesses, or administer the oath to the witness, take notes cataloging the recordings, etc. In some jurisdictions, the law clerks are lawyers who have just completed law school and may have already passed the bar exam. In other jurisdictions, the law clerks are not legally trained but may have specialized paralegal training or legal assistant training.

    Local and State Trial Court Administrators

    Indigency Verification Officers

    Bailiffs

    Jury Clerk

    Court Clerks and Staff

    Release Assistance Officers

    Scheduling Clerk

    taken under advisement. (Note that trial judges can either decide “from the bench”, meaning they will rule immediately on the issues before them during the hearing, or after taking the case under advisement, meaning they will rule through a written decision/opinion letter after spending time researching the law, reviewing the parties written pleadings, and considering the oral arguments).


    1. Eisentstein, J., & Jacob, H. (1977). Felony Justice: An organizational analysis of criminal courts. Boston, MA: Little Brown and Co.
    2. Spohn, C. & Hemmens, C. (2012) Courts: A Text/Reader (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
    3. Berkson, L.C. (2005). Judicial selection in the United States: A special report. In E.E. Slotnick (Ed.) Judicial Politics: Readings from Judicature (3d ed., pp. 50). Washington, DC: CQ Press
    4. Atkins B.M. & Glick, H.R. (1974). Formal judicial recruitment and state supreme court decisions. American Politics Quarterly, 2, 427-449
    5. Dubois, P.L. (1986), Accountability, independence, and the selection of state judges: The role of popular judicial elections. Southwestern Law Journal, 40, 31-52
    6. Nagel, S. (1975). Improving the legal process. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.