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When a legal dispute arises, or someone has been charged with a crime, the proceedings take place in a courtroom. The appearance of a courtroom may be significantly different depending on the jurisdiction, as well as the type of case being litigated. At a bare minimum, a judge, magistrate, or commissioner will be found in a courtroom, as well as someone to officially report the proceedings and the parties to the litigation.
The appearance and layout of a courtroom may range from cavernous, formal, and ornate to intimate, informal, and casual. The Supreme Court of the United States, for instance, hears cases in a courthouse that was first used in 1790 and retains the grandeur and formality of its age. At the other end of the spectrum, many administrative law hearings are held in agency offices with no formal reminders of a traditional courthouse. The average courtroom, however, falls somewhere between the two, having the look and feel of a place worthy of respect, but where business is also conducted on a regular basis.
The judge often sits on the "judge's bench" in the front of the room slightly elevated above the rest of the courtroom. On either side of the judge may be found the bailiff and court reporter whose jobs are to keep order in the room and officially report on the proceedings, respectively. Facing the judge in front of the room are two tables for the parties to the action and their respective counsel. Behind the parties is where the spectators sit in what is called the gallery. Along the sides, there is generally room for the jury to sit when convened to hear and decide a case.
A jury may be called upon to hear and decide either a civil or criminal case. Jury selection as well as the number of people that make up a jury will differ from one jurisdiction to the next; however, the job of a jury remains the same. The jury members are charged with listening to the evidence presented by both parties and render a decision at the end of the trial.
All types of judicial proceedings are heard in a courtroom, from initial arraignments to sentencing in criminal matters, and from preliminary hearings to jury trials in civil cases. Upon entering a courtroom, proper respect should be given to the judge and the judicial process. No one should talk unless spoken to by the judge or another member of the court staff.