Civil Plaintiff and Attorney
In a criminal case, the government is bringing a suit against someone accused of breaking the law. The government’s attorney is called a prosecutor. In federal district court, this is the U.S. Attorney or an Assistant U.S. Attorney.
There is a United States Attorney for each of the federal districts. He or she is assisted by several Assistant United States Attorneys, each of whom brings cases against defendants within the geographic area. U.S. Attorneys and Assistant U.S. Attorneys are experienced lawyers who investigate and prosecute federal crimes. Want to know more about a career as a U.S. Attorney? Click here…
Civil Defendant and Attorney
In a civil case, the party being sued is called the defendant. They usually have an attorney to represent them, though some defendants represent themselves.
Criminal Defendant and Attorney
In a criminal case, the accused person is called the defendant. Defendants are represented by an attorney, who may be an attorney from the Federal Public Defender’s Office if they can’t afford a private attorney.
There is a Federal Public Defender for each of the federal districts. He or she is assisted by several Assistant Federal Public Defenders, each of whom represents defendants within the geographic area. Federal Public Defenders and Assistant Federal Public Defenders are experienced lawyers who assist accused persons with their defense against federal charges. The Federal Public Defenders Office is within the judicial branch of government because it provides a service to the courts. But they represent the defendants, not the judges. Want to know more about a career as a Federal Public Defender? Click here….
The federal judge who presides in the courtroom may be an Article III Judge or a Magistrate Judge, depending on the type of case. The judge rules on issues of law that come up in trial. The judge decides on the verdict if it’s a bench trial. District judges determine the appropriate punishment and sentence those convicted of crimes. Visit the Student Center page About Federal Judges to learn more.
The Jury is made up of ordinary citizens. Their job is to consider all of the evidence in an unbiased way, and render a verdict for one side or the other. In federal criminal trials, there are always 12 jurors. In federal civil trials, the number of jurors varies, but there will always be at least 6 and no more than 12. Visit the Student Center page The Judge and The Jury to learn more.
With only a few exceptions, all hearings and trials are open to the public. You are welcome to observe at almost any time.
- Would you like to watch court? Click here to see the “daily docket” of the Eastern District of Missouri.
- Are you interested in reading court documents? Click here to visit the U.S. Courts PACER site. PACER means Public Access to Court Electronic Records.
Courtroom Deputy Clerk
This person makes sure everything in the courtroom is in place and that the trial flows smoothly and according to plan. The clerk swears in anyone who must be placed under oath before testifying. The clerk also takes care of the members of the jury, ensuring they can move from place to place within the courthouse, and acting as a courier if the jury has questions to ask the judge during deliberation. The clerk is in charge of all forms, documents, and evidence that might be needed during the course of a hearing or trial. Each district has one supervisory Clerk of Court, who then has one or more deputy clerks who assist with case management and courtroom duties. The clerk works for the judicial branch of government.
Want to know more about a career as a Clerk? Click here….
Also known as a stenographer, this person’s job is to make an accurate record of everything that is said in the courtroom during the course of trials. Court reporting is a specialized skill that takes years of preparation and practice to master. Documenting everything that is said correctly for the court record is very important because it ensures accountability for all parties. A party who has a question about what was said, or not said, can request the transcript from the court reporter. If one of the parties files an appeal, the higher court must have access to the court record so it can be reviewed for errors. Some courts use electronic sound recording instead of a court reporter, but even in those courts a written transcript will be prepared for any appeal.
Want to know more about a career as a Court Reporter? Click here….
Sometimes witnesses don’t speak English. Because what takes place in the courtroom may affect the parties for years to come, everyone involved must be able to hear and understand the proceedings. The court interpreter may be present in the courtroom, or may interpret over the telephone. The court interpreter must swear to accurately interpret everything that is said. Most courts hire interpreters on an as-needed basis.
Want to know more about a career as a Court Interpreter? Click here…
U.S. Pretrial Services and Probation
Pretrial and Probation Officers assist the judges in gathering specific information about defendants in criminal cases. Both interview the defendant, and also research their background and lifestyle. They use what they learn to prepare reports for the judge. The information from the U.S. Pretrial Services Officer helps the judge decide whether or not to release the defendant on bond until their trial, and to set any conditions the defendant must adhere to while awaiting their court date. The pretrial officer supervises defendants who are living in the community, and assists them with services like job placement and drug treatment.
If, after trial or plea agreement, the defendant is found guilty of the crime, the U.S. Probation Officer then researches and prepares a pre-sentence report. This report is used by the judge to determine punishment for the crime. The probation officer and judge use the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, and consider other factors, to determine the appropriate sentence for each individual situation and person. If the judge sentences the defendant to probation, or to a jail sentence followed by supervised release, the probation officer supervises the defendant in the community. The probation officer also provides assistance for rehabilitation, which may include drug or alcohol treatment, help getting a GED, or job training.
Want to know more about a career as a U.S. Pretrial Services or Probation Officer? Click here…
United States Marshal
The United States Marshals Service is the agency in charge of judicial security. The Marshals Service is a law enforcement agency, and thus works for the executive branch of government rather than the judiciary, though it provides a valuable service to the courts. U.S. Marshals provide security at the courthouse, and for judicial functions outside the courthouse. They serve warrants, arrest people, and apprehend fugitives. They transport defendants who are in custody to and from their court hearings and trials. There is a U.S. Marshal for each federal district, who is supported by a staff of Deputy U.S. Marshals, as well as Court Security Officers.
Want to know more about a career as a U.S. Marshal? Click here…