Picture of court house taken by Ian Britton: Freefoto.com
If you have ever sat on a jury, you may notice that there are a lot of side bar conferences. A side bar conference is essentially a conversation between the lawyers and the judge that is kept away from the jury. For the most part, jurors hate side bar conferences because they feel as though useful information is being kept from them.
Side bar conferences may also annoy jurors because it takes time and slows down the trial. A judge may call a side bar conference at any point. The lawyers may ask the judge for a side bar conference and it is up to the judge to grant that conference. If a side bar conference is going to be conducted, both lawyers need to approach the judge’s bench. If the conversation takes too long, the judge may opt to have a further hearing and ask the jury to step out of the room.
So what is really going on during a side bar conference? Well, there is really no one good answer. Side bar conferences are used to go over a number of issues that are inappropriate to be discussed in front of the jury. It could be something as simple as how certain evidence or items in the court room should be presented. A lawyer could be asking the court room to be set up in a certain fashion. More likely is that the judge is ruling on the rules of law and if certain evidence is allowed to be admitted.
You may find side bar conferences very annoying. After all, secrets are no fun, but it is important that you stay patient. The point of side bar conferences is not to keep relevant information from the jury, but to keep irrelevant information from the jury. If the jury hears evidence that violate the rules of evidence that can lead to an appeal or a mistrial. If the court declares a mistrial it could make them restart the case in front of another jury. Therefore, a little patience for side bar conferences can save the process a lot of time.
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