You may watch two of the following movies and write a paper.

State which two you chose 

Reference you cite must be in LEGAL CITATION

  • Erin Brokovich
  • A Civil Action
  • Runaway Jury
  • My Cousin Vinny
  • A Time to Kill
  • The Lincoln Lawyer
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Philadelphia
  • Presumed Innocent
  • Primal Fear
  • The Accused
  • Anatomy of a Murder
  • Inherit the Wind
  • Dark Waters
  • Marshall
  • The Judge
  • Devil’s Knot
  • North Country
  • Devil’s Advocate
  • Puncture

Take notes about the proceedings you observe, to include the date and time, the names of the parties, judges and attorneys.  Be sure to note:

  • Court atmosphere:  Were the procedures formal or informal?  If a criminal case, did the court appear concerned about protecting the defendants’ rights?
  • Types of proceedings and cases:  What procedures did you observe?  Did they appear fairly routine?  Was there a variety of cases?
  • Judge:  Age, race, gender.  How would you characterize the demeanor and skill of the judges you observed?  How did s/he interact with other courtroom personnel and the parties appearing before him/her?  Did s/he make general announcements to the whole courtroom?
  • Court personnel.  Age, race, gender.  What types of personnel were present (i.e., bailiffs, translators, transcriber, clerk, etc.)?  How would you characterize the demeanor and skill of the court personnel?   
  • Attorneys:  Age, race, gender.  How would you characterize the demeanor and skill of the attorneys you observed?  Did any of the parties represent themselves?  If so, did the judge give those individuals any advice about self-representation?  If a criminal hearing, was defense counsel privately-retained or a public defender?
  • Defendants:  Age, race, gender, apparent socioeconomic status, dress, behavior in court, previous history of convictions or lawsuits mentioned.  Did you find the defendants to be credible in their demeanor or claims?
  • Plaintiffs/ Victims:  Age, race, gender, apparent socioeconomic status, dress, behavior in court, prior defendant-plaintiff/ victim relationship.   Did you find the defendants to be credible in their demeanor or claims?
  • Evidence:  (if a criminal matter)  Identification of defendant, police testimony, testimony of defendant, expert testimony, recovered property, recovered weapon, number and credibility of prosecution witnesses, number and credibility of defense witnesses, etc.
  • Legal issues:  Identify the substantive area of law (i.e., criminal laws, torts/personal injury, bankruptcy, traffic, probate, etc.).  What were the issues of law being raised?  Were there any objections to evidence or testimony raised by either party?
  • Sympathy factors:  Gender, age, employment status, attractiveness, etc. of both defendant and victim.
  • Other interesting factors:  Were there instances of plaintiff/ victim provocation, prior plaintiff/ victim-defendant conflict, questionable character of plaintiff/ victim, racial composition of event?
  • Court Rulings:   What were the court’s rulings?  Did any outcomes surprise you?

After you finish your observations, consider your reactions.  Did the proceedings seem fair and just?  Did the court meet your expectations?  Were you surprised at what you observed?

Observation Paper

Write a paper of 4-5 pages minimum concerning your courtroom experience.

There should be three sections to your paper (be sure to label each):

  1. Courtroom Observations:  Include a description of what you observed in the courtroom.  Give the date, name, and type of the court proceeding you observed, and describe the proceeding dimensions listed in the bulleted section above.
  2. Reactions and Analysis:  Share your personal reactions to and analysis of the proceedings.  Were you surprised by anything you saw?  Shocked or even bored? What appeared to govern the outcome in the case you observed?  Did the strength of evidence seem to determine the outcome, or were other factors more influential?
  3. Integration:  Discuss the relationship between have you’ve learned in this class (or another TNCC LGL or ADJ class) and what you observed in the courtroom.  Were you prepared for what you observed?  Are there points made in the class and the reading material that you saw illustrated in the courtroom proceedings?

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