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Trial Watching
updated: Feb 16, 2013, 9:15 PM

By Edhat Subscriber

I am interested in jurisprudence and I'm interested in joining the gallery of trials at the Santa Barbara Courthouse. I know that the public is allowed to sit in on trials, but I don't know the actual ins & outs of it. Can i just walk into any trial and sit in the gallery? Or do i need to wait for the recess to do so? Do i need to ask an on-duty Bailiff? Does anyone have advice for an aspiring "trial watcher" on how to expound my curiosity and be able to sit in on local trials?

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 375234P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-16 09:26 PM

Not sure about the etiquette for criminal trials but the civil trial I was a juror for allowed people in and out of the gallery at anytime as long as they did not disturb the proceedings. But I suggest you follow a trial beginning to end else you may not have a clue what is going if come in the middle of it

 

 COMMENT 375235P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-16 09:27 PM

You can join most of them as they commence in the morning. I would not walk in either, for the same reasons you have. You could check in with court clerk office; bailiff at break is always a good idea. You may be joined by court watchers and students, along with interested parties. Check the court calendar posted on the wall in a glass case -- and probably on line.
Google "santa barbara county court calendar"
I haven't been there in years, so take my "info" with a grain of salt.

 

 COMMENT 375245 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-16 09:36 PM

You can walk in and out of most any trial at any time. Most (maybe all) of the courts have court number signs that are lit up when the court is in session.

There are trials that you can not walk in on - but you will see a sign on the door indicating that.

At first it feels a little intimidating to walk in - and you will no doubt want to do it as unobtrusively as possible.

 

 COMMENT 375283 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-17 07:16 AM

Sitting in a courtroom would be a complete waste of time because the system moves slower than cold molasses...
You will accomplish more by learning how to pour over the endless piles of data regarding cases your interested.

 

 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-17 07:42 AM

Local authors Ken and Maggie Millar (he wrote as Ross McDonald) often attended criminal trials at our courthouse as research for their mystery/detective novels.

 

 COMMENT 375293 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-17 07:45 AM

Have at it. Trials and evidentiary hearings on criminal cases occur in the afternoons, mostly. You might catch a preliminary hearing in Department 10 (on the second floor of 118 East Figueroa) or a trial in either Departments 11 or 12 on the same floor at the back of the building. You can also find a criminal trial in Department 1 in the main/historic courthouse on the second floor across the street. A murder trial (which are rare) just started and will last at least a month. It's the one involving the Eastsiders who allegedly beat to death a Syrian store clerk. It is being held in Department 14 (which is on the second floor of the jury assembly building). Ask a bailiff during a break for tips on what to observe...they know.

 

 COMMENT 375319 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-17 08:42 AM

Good for you for being interested. Even when it moves like molasses, as one commenter opined, you still learn a lot!! It's interesting.

 

 COMMENT 375349 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-17 09:27 AM

It's the legal system not judge Judy.

It's not supposed to be fast and action packed.

Now I'm interested in sitting in too, I totally forgot you could do that, thanks op

 

 COMMENT 375357 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-17 09:47 AM

I thought of the Millars too. Sometimes jurors who wer not picked will sit in if it is an interesting trial.

 

 COMMENT 375379 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-17 10:35 AM

Yep, you can just bop in. Thank the Constitution, which mandates public trials.

 

 SHOREBIRD agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-17 11:09 AM

Cannot "bop into" writ hearings for mental health patients.

 

 COMMENT 375408 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-17 12:07 PM

Most court proceedings are open to the public who may enter and leave (quietly) at any time. There are however some "closed" procedings such as juvenile cases and adult competency hearings, questioning of jurors if there is suspected conflict or misconduct occuring. Usually there is a sign posted on the door if the matter is closed to the public. The only other circumstance barring entry might be if there was some pre-trial or pre-hearing order made, typically an order excluding witnesses. For obvious reasons the integrity of witness testimony might be affected by hearing the testimony of another witness or principal. Occasionly an order might be made if there is a question about unathorized communication or intimidation of witnesses (or jurors in the case of a trial). It is easy to inquire of the bailiff or clerk if any such orders exist and whether they would affect you.

 

 COMMENT 375463P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-17 02:04 PM

Thanks, 293, for the useful info about which courtrooms have the kinds of cases the OP -- and now, me -- might want to visit to watch a trial.

 

 NATURE BOY agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-17 04:41 PM

Thanks everyone! I'm the OP -- great info! As they say, "See you in court!"

 

 NATURE BOY agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-17 05:39 PM

Did you hear the one about the jurisprudence fetishist who got off on a technicality?

 

 COMMENT 375516 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-17 06:24 PM

Take a look at the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Also talk to someone at the court you want to attend. There are numerous other resources as well that you can use to pursue your interest.

 

 COMMENT 375681 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-18 10:30 AM

If you'd just like a little quick daytime high drama on the order of Judge Judy, you might like attending small claims court. The cases are heard quickly and are usually settled on the spot.

Municipal court arraignments can also be fun. A few years ago I was driving through Greensboro, NC, and was having my car serviced. The courthouse was nearby, so I wandered over just in time for the beginning of muni court, Southern style. The first case involved a 20-something lad who was caught with two marijuana cigarettes in his possession. Despite having no past criminal record, he was found guilty and sentenced to nearly a year in jail.

If you're in the right mood, traffic court can also be fun to watch.

 

 COMMENT 375775 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-02-18 01:38 PM

U.S. Const., Amendment VI. Enter any courtroom in any department here in SB, or elsewhere. If a bailiff asks you what you are doing there, educate him/her. It is your inalienable right.

 

39% of comments on this page were made by Edhat Community Members.

 

 

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