Search the Lounge


« Mockingbird Litigation -- The Legal Issue | Main | The Baseball Rule »

March 28, 2018


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Steve L.

There is probably no need to redesign the bench for three-member panels on the U.S. Courts of Appeal, as the judges can already see each other just fine.

But it would be interesting to see how many state supreme courts -- which have five to nine members -- use curved benches. The bench for the seven-member Illinois Supreme Court is straight (or at least it was straight the last time I was in the courtroom, although that was some years ago).

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Re: "It should come as no surprise then that the floor plan of the House and Senate chambers physically separates the two parties. Republicans sit in desks on the right side of the chamber and Democrats sit on the left."

This arrangement can be traced all the way back to Mirabeau’s “Geography of the Assembly:”

Beginning with the “first National Assembly during the French Revolution, the ‘left-wing’ parties sit to the left as seen from the president’s seat, and the ‘right-wing’ parties sit to the right, and the seating arrangement thus directly indicates the political spectrum as represented in the Assembly.”

As Lynn Hunt writes in her seminal volume on Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution (University of California Press, 1984),

“Like the country as a whole, the national legislature had its spatial differentiations; deputies who thought alike sat together on the same side of the center aisle. During the National Convention, the topography became more subtle yet: the most radical deputies became known as Mountain (or as the mountain men, the montagnards), because they preferred the highest row of benches. Their opponents were known as Girondins because some of their leaders came from the Gironde department headquartered in Bordeaux. The large uncommitted center was known as the Plain or the Swamp, terms that referred to the lower seats occupied by these deputies. Newspapers and clubs taught the voters about the new categories.”

Anthony Gaughan

I agree, Steve. I actually never thought about this issue before until reading the JSCH article today. But I'm going to scrutinize the bench every time I set foot in a courtroom from now on.

Anthony Gaughan

I did not know that about the history of the seating arrangements at the National Assembly, Patrick. It's fascinating.

Enrique Guerra Pujol

According to the article by Black, et al., the ‘72 bench is not really curved; instead, it is slightly angled. A curved prototype was built but never installed.

Anthony Gaughan

Thanks for your great observation about the bench's actual shape, Enrique.

The authors call it a "curved" bench throughout the article, and it looks like Chief Justice Burger did too. In the first paragraph of the article on p. 83 the authors write that "In short, Burger's hope was that this curved bench would minimize the occurrence of Justices talking over one another while questioning the attorneys."

But I think you are absolutely right that it technically really is an "angled" bench even though the article refers to it as a "curved" bench. The figure on p. 86 of the new bench shows that the "curved" bench is actually three benches, with the benches at the two ends set at angles. In fact, in one of the picture captions on p. 94, they refer to "angled sections."

Moreover, if the picture on p. 86 of the article is any guide, the 1950s prototype of a curved bench would have been only modestly effective. It looks like only the two justices at the far ends of the bench would have seen any improvement. In fact, the 1950s version looks more like the seating arrangement I imagine you'd find at a 1950s nightclub.

So the current "curved" bench that you rightly describe as "angled" turned out to be the best design option.

Thanks again for your comment!

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad