Small meeting rooms should be provided for hearings on minor infractions, small claims, and private matters, as well as for settlement conferences and status hearings. Private conferences may occur between parties in child custody, neglect, or other sensitive cases. These areas are also well-suited for alternative dispute resolution proceedings such as mediation and arbitration. The areas should accommodate 10 to 20 persons, yet be small enough to foster an informal, non‑threatening atmosphere.
Requirements are generally those for a standard conference room. Persons attending may be the judge, court reporter, bailiff, and attorneys. This room should be located near the courtroom so that the judge and parties have convenient access. Furnishings should include a desk or slightly elevated bench, tables, chairs, telephone, electrical outlets, data jacks, and cabling for the court reporter and installation of personal computers.
The design and image of interspersed hearing and conference rooms should be appropriate to their intended functions. Emphasis should be on the formality of the discussions. Conference rooms intended for general use should accommodate large amounts of traffic and wear. Rooms for more formal settings and hearings should convey the appropriate image.
The smaller hearing rooms should accommodate 10 to 20 people and require approximately 400 to 800 square feet. Informal meeting and conference rooms designed to accommodate a minimum of 6 people may range in size from approximately 150 to 400 square feet.
The hearing and meeting rooms should be well lighted, with appropriate thermostatic controls, and free from exterior noise and distractions. The rooms should be soundproofed to prevent private conversations from being heard in adjacent areas.
All rooms should be fully accessible.
The meeting rooms should be interspersed throughout the facility. They generally need to be located on the court floors and to be accessible from the courtrooms and chambers.
Larger courthouses should have at least one room in which informal hearings and alternative dispute resolutions may be conducted by judges or special hearing officers.
Additional security may be provided by placing metal detectors at the entrance to the courtroom during high profile or high security cases. It is also desirable to separate opposing parties seated in the courtroom.
Some informal proceedings, such as mediation, require only a large conference table, at which the parties jointly work toward a solution. Other proceedings, such as arbitration and juvenile hearings, may require a more formal setting utilizing a slightly elevated judge's bench, witness stand, clerk's station, bailiff's station, work tables for each of the parties, and a small area for public seating. Movable furniture may be used in the hearing rooms.
A telephone line, cabling for computer and video display terminals, and videotape equipment may be provided in each room.