Observation of the Court System
The purpose of this report is to produce a comprehensive discussion and analysis of observations undertaken at the Queensland Planning and Environment Court, or if that proves to be impossible due to scheduling, of any criminal court proceedings. Students should demonstrate comprehensive observations, an understanding of the relationship of activities to the rules of the court and legislation, and an analysis of the roles of participants in the courtroom, particularly that of expert witnesses.
Students must attend a sitting or sittings of the Planning and Environment Court (or criminal court) for a total of at least six hours. This may mean using examples drawn from a number of cases, although a single matter is preferable if possible.
Students are to observe and take notes on the following;
The number and roles of participants in the court
The layout of the courtroom and its relationship to the activities and roles of those taking part
The nature of the matter being heard
The role played by evidence and testimony
The tactics and skills used by the legal representatives
The role of the judge
The role of legislation and court rules in shaping procedure
The role of expert testimony in shaping outcomes
Students are encouraged to use the techniques discussed during the workshop in week two in order to ensure that their observations are as accurate and rigorous as possible. Even though the report is individual it is fine for students to work in groups to undertake the observations. THIS DOES NOT MEAN SOMEONE ELSE GOES TO COURT FOR YOU. IT MEANS THAT YOU ARE ALLOWED TO POOL YOUR OBSERVATIONAL DATA PROVIDED THAT YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU HAVE DONE SO.
In case anybody is wondering, the fact that I chose to type all of that in bold capitals IS an indication of emphasis.
Structure of the report
This assessment item is to be in report format and should contain the following elements;
A description of the court case/s that were observed and the times and duration of the observations
A diagram of the court setting indicating the main participants
A conclusion and an appendix containing the raw observational notes
Students are strongly encouraged to use diagrams where appropriate, and to integrate external sources into their analysis of proceedings. There is a wealth of literature specifically related to activity within court settings, and even more about many of the aspects of human behaviour you will be observing.
The difference between a good and an average report in this context is the level and complexity of analysis. Almost anyone can go to a court and simply describe what they see. It is more difficult to interpret and analyse this description, and this is something that you need to focus on.
A few tips
Dress respectfully and go early, use common sense and respect when addressing court staff if required, remember the judge is Your Honour. You cannot, in most instances, carry recording devices into the court, so you need to take notes in the traditional manner. It is quite possible that the Judge in the P&E court will be curious as to your attendance, they dont get visitors very often, and they may ask you why you are there. This isnt a bad thing, they are just interested. Remember that this is a formal setting. Dont sit and chat to each other, and dont use your phone.
Try and find established cases rather than those that are simply up for mention, and therefore too brief to be of any use. For a listing of current court cases go to http://www.courts.qld.gov.au/daily-law-lists#SDC.