March 18, 2014
"The Criminal Court Audience in a Post-Trial World"
The title of this post is the title of this interesting new article by Jocelyn Simonson available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Legal scholars today criticize the lack of public participation in the criminal justice system as a barrier to democratic accountability, legitimacy, and fairness. When searching for solutions, these critiques bypass consideration of the audience members who attend criminal court each day — people who fill courtrooms to watch the cases in which their friends, family, and community members have been either victimized or accused of a crime. This is a mistake, for the constitutional function of the audience is one uniquely suited to help restore public participation and accountability in a world without juries.
The Constitution protects the democratic function of the local audience through both the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial and the First Amendment right of the public to attend criminal court. This Article argues that these rights apply with full force in the routine criminal courtroom, in which arraignments, pleas, and sentencings, rather than trials, are taking place. Recognizing and enforcing the constitutional protection of the audience will require local criminal courts to grapple with widespread issues of public exclusion from the courtroom. Doing so has the potential to play a part in reinvigorating the lost connection of the public to the realities of routine criminal justice, linking a generally disempowered population to mechanisms of government accountability and social change.
March 18, 2014 at 09:37 AM | Permalink
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The public is routinely excluded from arraignment, plea and sentencing hearings? I would have thought the reason for general non-participation in these functions is that they are incredibly boring, not that the judge clears the courtroom.
If these functions are usually closed I would agree that is a problem, but I would have to see that they are in fact closed before I would care about it.
Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 18, 2014 10:45:37 AM