June 28, 2015 • Legal Terminology
During the course of a personal injury trial, which can be medical malpractice case, accident case, or even a wrongful death case, what happens if a juror wants to use the bathroom? If the juror needs to go to the bathroom in the middle of the trial proceedings, can he raise his hand and ask permission from the judge.
A Bathroom Break is Allowed during the Trial
The answer is yes; a juror or jurors can raise their hands and request a bathroom break from the judge. The judge will honor such a request, stop the trial, allow everybody to take a break, and get back after some time to resume the trial. Nobody talks about this because it is not on anyone’s mind, until a person would want to use the bathroom when the trial is marching forward.
Can such a person simply get up quietly and walk out of the courtroom? The answer is yes, if the person is sitting in the back of the courtroom. In the back of the courtroom, you do not have to ask permission, since it is a public courtroom and a person can leave when he needs to, without disturbing the court proceedings. What if it is an attorney, who needs to use the bathroom?
What happens when the lawyer is questioning a witness, and he needs to take a bathroom break? The attorney can ask the judge for a break, and depending on how the case is progressing or how much distress the attorney is obviously in, the judge might agree to provide few minutes bathroom break.
Does the Judge need to Stop Trial Proceedings?
Hence, anyone in the back of the courtroom can simply walk out without asking the judge’s permission, while the trial proceedings are in full swing. Jurors on the other hand, have to ask specifically for permission, since the judge will have to stop the proceedings and authorize a bathroom break.
None of the normal trial proceedings can go on in the absence of a juror or jurors. Each juror is supposed to listen and evaluate the case individually, and therefore cannot miss anything that happens during the trial. Therefore the judge, will obviously have to stop proceedings and resume the trial after the bathroom break.
Can an Attorney Request a Bathroom Break?
The same holds true for lawyers as well, even when it is the lawyer not questioning the witness, who needs the bathroom break. The judge will have to stop proceedings and resume trial when the lawyer ready to proceed. However, a judge will consider many things before allowing a bathroom break for an attorney, since this strategy could be employed to create a break purposefully. For instance, the defense witness is on the stand and he is floundering under the cross-examination of the plaintiff’s lawyer.
The defense lawyer might ask for a bathroom break to create an opportunity for the witness to get his thoughts organized, and be more ready when the questioning resumes. Based on this deviousness, if the judge feels something like untoward is going on, he might order the bathroom break after the questioning is over and not immediately.