June 2, 2015 • Legal Terminology
In personal injury cases, whether it is a medical malpractice case, accident case, or even a wrongful death case, one of the attorneys might request the judge that they would like to have a sidebar. This usually happens when one of the attorneys is objecting to something. One of the attorneys will then ask the judge whether he can have a sidebar.
What is a Request for a Sidebar?
Sidebar means the attorneys want to speak to the judge in private. In such instances, the judge can do a number of things. He can tell the jury that he is now going to speak to the attorneys in private, and he might instruct the jury to go into the jury room and wait there until his discussion with the attorneys is over. The judge also has another alternative, where he can have the attorneys approach the bench or to the side, and speak to them quietly, so that the jury cannot hear whatever is spoken.
The judge can also take the attorneys into their office to work things out as well.
Anytime there is an objection from the lawyers, the judge will have to make an immediate decision about whether to allow the question or to allow the evidence to come in. However, making the decision, the judge might want to hear legal arguments from the attorneys at their request. Since the discussion involves legal arguments, the judge might not want the jury to listen to the conversation that is taking place.
The Judge is the Ruler of the Law
The judge is responsible for making legal decisions and legal rulings in the conducting of the case. The jury does not play any part in this. The function of the jury in a personal injury case, is to determine, who is more likely right than wrong. The jurors are finders of facts, and the judge on the other hand is the ruler of law in a courtroom.
Hence, when one of the attorneys requests a sidebar, the judge will usually say yes. The attorneys will then approach the bench and speak to the judge quietly, so that the jury does not hear the conversation. This conversation is also no longer on record. The court reporter present in the courtroom will not be taking down all the things that are being said between the judge and the two attorneys. Contrast this to the questions and answers that are going on in the courtroom before the request for sidebar, where everything was being taken down by the court reporter.
If there is not a court reporter – someone may just temporarily turn off the recording device.
Both Lawyers are Involved
Therefore, sidebar is a private conversation between the judge and both the attorneys. The request for a sidebar will be made by one of the attorneys, but both attorneys will approach the bench. The other attorney is also included in the discussion, as he also will want to hear what is going on and he might want to make legal arguments against what the other attorney is telling the judge. The judge will listen to both attorneys, and will reach a decision before calling off the sidebar so they can proceed with the trial.