What should the judge presiding over the case do?


The trial judge is responsible for managing the case and providing oversight over the high-profile case team.  

  • The trial judge must establish and maintain control not only of the trial but also of the immediate environment surrounding the courtroom, the courthouse, the jurisdiction, and beyond. Clearly articulating expectations for both within and outside the courtroom will help with this task. 
  • A high-profile case is not the time for a trial judge to change his or her method of dealing with court staff. He or she should continue to manage the trial in the style that is most comfortable.   
  • The trial date is the judge's most powerful tool for controlling case management in a high-profile case.
    • The trial date sets the parameters for all other pretrial proceedings, including case discovery schedules, hearings on motions in limine, and pretrial conferences. It encourages timely preparation by the attorneys and tends to discourage delays and continuances. The trial date should be reasonable given the complexity of the case and the expected amount of pretrial discovery. 
  • To avoid charges of favoritism, a trial judge should not appear excessively close to any one representative of the media.   
  • To avoid an appearance of unnecessarily withholding information, the trial judge should keep media informed of what is happening and the reasons for the court's actions.  
  • At hearings on motions, a judge should avoid making rulings from the bench that can be misconstrued or taken out of context in media reports. If possible, motions should be simply granted or denied with a written opinion to follow if necessary.  
  • A judge should avoid generating additional publicity or becoming the focus of personal attention. For example, a judge in a notorious case should control intemperate speech. A judge should not say or do anything that if reported by the media would distract from the focus on the trial.
  • The judge should ensure that the media are informed of any motions or hearings to seal records or close judicial proceedings and give them an opportunity to object.   

The trial judge's lifeline during a high-profile case will be their high-profile case team who will coordinate logistical, security, and media relations for the duration of the trial. Once the trial judge is chosen, he or she should select the team members. Ideally, most of the team members will have already been identified in the court's COOP plan.  The high-profile case team should be trusted to and should be given sufficient authority- through written court orders, as necessary to carry out its responsibilities. 

Investing these individuals with the authority to implement their decisions will prevent unnecessary "appeals" to the trial judge by those who are unhappy with the decisions of the trial team. 

They should be given sufficient self-assurance to assume responsibility for managing their respective duties without seeking the judge's approval for minor details. However, a working dialogue between the high-profile case team and the trial judge should be maintained throughout the trial with the trial judge checking in frequently. The detailed responsibilities of each of the members of the high-profile case team can be found below.

 

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