Q: When a defendant represents him/herself before a judge, is it ok to have or bring anyone to the table where defendant sits? Can the defendant bring a trusted friend to serve as an advisor during the court case?

-B.S., Carson

Ron Sokol

A: Talk with the court clerk as to what the  judge allows, or ask the judge in open court. You certainly cannot have just anyone sit at counsel’s table. If you are a defendant, and represent yourself, you will be sitting there, but witnesses and friends will not. They sit in the gallery in the courtroom, although witnesses may be excluded by the court until it is their time to testify.

A trusted advisor — such as a paralegal who is your assistant — may be able to sit with you. Courts do show some deference to lay people who take on the challenge of representing themselves, but I have said before, and (sorry) will say it again:  “He who represents himself has a fool for a client”.

Q: Just what is the role of a bailiff in court, other than to look official so you don’t do anything other than act  properly?

-J.L., Los Angeles

A: Bailiffs are often considered security in the courtroom to make sure things do not get out of hand, and to take action if they do. A bailiff may play other important roles as well such as announcing the judge’s entry into the courtroom, handling evidence (it is given to the bailiff and then turned over to the judge), accompany the jury into and outside of the courtroom, and pass on messages that the jury may have for the court.

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