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Are civil jury trials in New York open to the public?

 

A:

 The answer is “Yes.”

Cases involving medical malpractice, accidents and wrongful death are always open to the public. Some visitors are intimidated to walk into a courtroom that is actively on trial. I suppose it can be somewhat intimidating to see people engaged in a real trial and not wanting to disturb them.

The reality is that people go in and out of courtrooms all the time. The court and the attorneys are used to mild interruptions. As long as you are not a participant in that particular trial, you can go into any courtroom you want and stay for as long as you wish.

Sometimes a court officer or court clerk will come over to ask you whether you are a participant in this particular trial. They want to know if you are a witness or an expert who's planning to testify.

The idea of an open courtroom policy throughout New York is that our system of justice is supposed to be transparent. It is supposed to be open to the public for all to see.

You may see lawyers coming into the courtroom and sitting and watching as well. There were two reasons for this.

The first is that the lawyer may be waiting fora  conference with the judge's law clerk. In that instance, they will usually be asked to wait in the courtroom until the law clerk is available. On the other hand, they may simply want to observe the action.

Personally, whenever I am in court and have finished with my days' activity, I will try and sit in on his many trials as possible. There is an important reason for this. Not only do I love watching these trials, but as a practicing trial attorney I love watching lawyers who are very good at what they do as well as learning from lawyers who may not be as good as some others.

Sitting in and observing allows you to pick up things that you should do as a trial attorney as well as things you should not do.