Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday At The Bar: Comparison and Contrast

I was supposed to start a trial in Laramie today, but as it settled at the last moment, I am not.

In preparing for that, I went to check out the courtrooms.  I've been in the Second Judicial Distric's courtroom before, but I haven't done a multi-party trial there before, so I thought I better see what the accommodations were like in that context.  I also thought I better update myself on the court's technology, which is increasingly becoming a big deal.

Here's the courtroom for the state district court there:
 Second Judicial District's courtroom.  As you can see in this photograph, the courtroom is equipped with two tables for the parties and and its now wired for computer access, with a big screen on the wall.

As we've previously discussed here, this courthouse was built in 1931, making it one of several Depression Era courthouses still in use in Wyoming.  Since 1990, when I started practicing law, these courthouses have had to be updated to take into account electronics.  It's interesting to note, I guess, that when I started practicing in 1990 none of the older courthouses, and I've tried cases in courtrooms considerably older than this, had such features, no did anyone think think they were necessary in any fashion.  Now a person wouldn't dare build a courthouse without such features and the old ones that are still being used are being retrofitted.

I also checked out the courtroom facilities at the law school as the space considerations somewhat concerned me and I thought I better inform myself on what else was around, just in case.  I had heard they'd put in a nice moot courtroom (they actually put in two), but I hadn't seen them.  Here's the big one, an intervening wall makes this somewhat confusing but that wall can be folded up to increase the size of the courtroom.

 Big Moot Court courtroom at the College of Law.  This bench has seats for multiple jurist so it was obviously built taking into account appellate arguments, but it also features a jury box.  Big screens can be seen above for electronic interface.

The wall here folds in, which would expand the size of the courtroom.  Looked at this way, what we're seeing here is the bar of the courtroom and some additional space behind the parties' tables.  In this configuration this courtroom is obviously set up as a lecture hall, which is what this space was when I was in law school.

It's interesting. The students, for trial practice, clearly have one of the nicest courtrooms in the state.  And I don't think that's bad.  And I'm not saying that the courtroom downtown in the same town is bad either. 

But field conditions, in all things, often don't match the school ones.

I'm sure such things will soon be a thing of the past here, and darned near are now, but I have tried a case in a 19th Century Wyoming courthouse (no longer in use) and at least one whose construction predated World War One.  In the former case neither counsel (me and opposing counsel) opted for any high tech things of any kind so the lack of electronics was not a hindrance.  But that's becoming increasingly rare.

But has the quality of the presentation of information  actually improved?

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