A requirement of this course is to attend a morning or afternoon court session/trial at the King County Superior Court. Any other type of court (e.g., District or Municipal Court) will not suffice. What distinguishes a trial from a hearing or motion session is that the former have witnesses who testify and are subject to direct and cross examination. A COURT APPEARANCE WHERE A DEFENDANT MERELY PLEADS GUILTY OR NOT GUILTY TO A CHARGE OR WHERE ATTORNEYS ARGUE MOTIONS IS NOT A TRIAL SESSION. This is true even if the guilty pleas are followed by sentencing.
Morning sessions generally start around 8:30 a.m. and afternoon sessions usually start around 1:30 p.m. It is up to each individual judge to determine when he or she wants to start their court sessions. There are two King County Superior courthouses. One is located on 516 3rd Avenue in Seattle and the second courthouse is located at 401 4th Avenue North in Kent. For more information on the King County Superior Court, visit the home page at http://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/SuperiorCourt.aspx
Please note that often the plaintiff/state and defendant will resolve the case on the day of the trial or the day before and the trial will be canceled. If you are interested in seeing a particular case, I encourage you to call the court clerk in the morning to verify that the case you want to see will be in session that day. There is always something to observe in the court and you should not fail to attend simply because a case you may have wanted to see will not be in session.
After observing the trial proceeding, you are required to submit a five page, double spaced, typed paper on your experience. In part 1, please create the below listed form and it will be your cover page that is not included in the 5 page paper limit.
What courthouse did you attend?
What type of proceeding was it (criminal or civil)?
What was the subject of the case (e.g., murder, personal injury, divorce, assault, etc)?
What stage of the proceeding did you observe (direct testimony, cross examination, voir dire, etc.)?
In part 2, you will begin your 5 page discussion of your paper. Here, you should discuss your thoughts about what you saw in court. For example:
How was this different that what you have seen on television?
How is this court different from courts in other countries?
Do you agree with the outcome of the trial? Why or why not?
What was your opinion of the attorneys in the case? Why do you have that opinion?
What do you think about the Judge? Was the trial well run?
What legal issues did you see?
Did those legal issues get resolved? If so, how and do you agree with the decision?
Is there anything about what you observed that would cause you to want to settle the case?
The above listed suggestions are only suggestions and you can write about anything that you thought was interesting about the court. However, please do not attempt to write testimony from the proceeding. This paper is not about what witnesses, attorneys, or the judge said in open court. If I want or need to read the testimony from the court, I can get an official trial transcript from the clerk. This paper is about your thoughts and impressions on the court and why you have those opinions.
The report must be typed with 1 inch margins and 12 point font. The grading rubric for this paper will be posted on MyBC. The pages of this paper should be attached by staples. Paper clips or other means of attaching multiple pages (other than staples) are not acceptable.
The due date of the paper will be posted on MYBC. Late papers will receive a 10% deduction for every 3 days past the due date. Failure to submit the paper will result in a grade of Incomplete for the class. YOU MUST SUBMIT THIS PAPER TO RECEIVE A PASSING GRADE FOR THIS CLASS.
Parking is expensive and hard to find sometimes, so you may want to attend the session with other students. However, the paper must be written by each student without input from other sources or students.
Finally, I hope you have fun with this assignment. The court staff, prosecutors, and public defenders serve a vital role in the court process and they all know students are coming to observe sessions. They are all over worked and under paid busy professionals but, if you have a chance to talk to them, they may answer some of your questions.