The Court’s Management of High-Profile Cases
Courts are sometimes faced with managing high-profile or notorious cases. A media frenzy surrounding such trials can make it a challenge to provide a fair trial, which is a right guaranteed by the Constitution.
Enhanced security measures may be necessary in high profile cases to protect the safety and privacy of parties, witnesses, jurors, the judge, and court staff. A strategy for entry and exit from the courtroom may be needed to assure that the trial will run smoothly. Also, a plan for seating spectators and the media in the courtroom may be necessary to take limited seating space into account.
It is essential for the judge in a high-profile case to set and enforce clear rules for the management of the case. The judge should insist upon dignity and decorum in the courtroom. The judge should also insist on courteous behavior by all present in the courtroom.
The judge may establish guidelines for the behavior of members of the media in the courtroom, the hallways, and the area surrounding the courthouse. If cameras are to be allowed in the courtroom, the judge should attempt to minimize the effects of television coverage, which might negatively affect the trial. Also, the judge should consider entering a “gag order,” which prohibits the parties, attorneys, witnesses, and law enforcement from talking to the media about the case being heard by the judge. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that gag orders can be used to control pretrial and trial publicity. Gag orders are allowed when it is likely that a party will be prejudiced without the order or when it will be difficult to assure a fair trial without a gag order.
Effective jury management is essential in high-profile cases. The judge is responsible for shielding potential jurors from the media. Once jurors are selected, assuring their privacy and safety becomes crucial in a high-profile case. It is necessary in some instances to sequester or isolate the jury both for their safety and to prevent them from being unduly influenced by the media or outside contacts.
Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.