Within the court systems, there are various individuals who take different responsibilities during the criminal trial process. Some of these individuals include: prosecutor, Bailiff, judge, and defense attorney. This paper discusses the duties and responsibilities of the major court participants, how they are selected, and their importance in the court proceedings. It also defines judicial discretion and gives its impact to the courtroom work group.
Judges are the easily recognizable members of the courtroom participants; maybe because of their unique and prominent position in the courtroom. Their primary role is to ensure justice; they are responsible for protecting the rights of the accused as well as those of the public. These individuals must be neutral parties who are responsible for determining whether the prosecution has established the guilt of the person accused as is required by the law. They also instruct the jury at the conclusion of trials about their roles in determining the guilt of the defendant. Finally, the judges are assigned the role of sentencing a defendant who is found guilty, and they determine appropriate penalties for the committed crimes. The federal judges are appointed by the president and confirmed by the United States president. States court judges are elected through partisan or nonpartisan elections whereby the potential judges campaign for their positions. The judges are required to be holders of a law degree and to have been admitted to the state bar prior to the appointment or election (May, 2008).
The primary role of the defense attorney is to contest against the state’s case versus the defendant. Therefore, the defense attorney provides the alleged defendant with legal assistance to ensure that his or her constitutional rights are fully protected. In addition, the defense attorney helps the defendant in building a case that will ensure that he or she is wrongly convicted for a crime the person never committed. Normally, the attorney requests the court to consider legal questions such as whether the defendant’s identity matches that of the individual who committed the crime for which his or her client is charged, and whether there is enough evidence to charge his or her client with a crime. Private attorneys are hired by their clients to assist them. However, defense attorneys are provided by the states to help people who are not able to hire private attorneys (Siegel, 2011).
Prosecutor (Prosecution Attorney)
This is the second most important individual in the court system. This is the first person that defendants encounter in their journey through criminal trial experience. In America, the attorney general is appointed by the president and he or she is the highest law enforcement officer. Each district has its own attorney, who serves as the chief prosecutor of that district. Each state elects its own prosecutors, although some states’ prosecutors are appointed by governors. The basic role of the prosecutor is to prepare and present the state’s case against the defendants in civil and criminal cases. They also ensure that the guilty ones are prosecuted and the innocent people are protected. In a nutshell, the prosecutor initiates charges against individuals accused of a crime based on his or her own legal opinion of the defendants committed the crimes that are under consideration. Other function of the prosecutors include: managing the investigation phase of a criminal case, preparing cases for trials, and responding to some appeal issues (May, 2008).
Bailiff and Court Administrator
This is a court officer whose responsibility is to maintain order in the courtroom and is also charged with managing and supervision of the jurors in a jury trial. The bailiff is normally an armed law enforcement officer who is assigned to assist in the operations of the court by announcing the entry of judges into the courtroom, calling witnesses, protecting other court participants, as well as preventing the alleged defendants from escaping from the courtroom. In the federal courts, bailiffs are deputy United States marshals (Sterngass, 2008). The court administrator assists the judge in the management of the court’s daily activities. The administrator manages the court’s personnel, budgets and caseloads in a manner that makes the court to run smoothly. The administrator also tracks the case outcomes to ensure that defendants are processes through the court in an efficient manner (May, 2008).
Judicial discretion is the power that is given to the judges to allow them make decisions without being bound or restricted by strict statute rules. For instance, the judges are given the sovereign power to evaluate the measures that they consider most appropriate to ensure the protection of the witnesses. Even if there is an agreement upon the protective measures of the witnesses, the court is required to analyze these measures and determine to what extent they are compatible with the accused person’s rights. For instance, the court should be mindful of the need to guarantee the utmost protection and respect to the rights of the witnesses and the victims, while also respecting the rights of the accused (Tochilovsky, 2008).
Impact of Judicial Discretion on the Courtroom Work Group
Judicial discretion plays an important role in the courtroom. It is the role of the judges to take all relevant factors into account and make the right and just decision for the victim, offender and the entire community. Judicial discretion is important in the courtroom because it tailors the sentence according to individual circumstances. It is the quintessence of sentencing whereby the judge must have discretion of fixing appropriate sentence in all circumstances within an appropriate range. When there is less discretion in the courtroom, there is a risk of injustice in particular cases. In other words, lack of discretion bars the judge from tailoring the case to meet the offender’s circumstances (Mackenzie, 2005).
The major courtroom participants include: defense attorney, prosecution attorney, bailiff, judge and administrator. The roles of these individuals are important in the courtroom as they ensure smooth running of all court proceedings. Finally, judicial discretion is an important aspect in the court system because it ensures independence of the court participants.