In contrast to visions of judicial space as neutral, Linda Mulcahy argues that understanding the factors that determine the internal design of the courthouse and courtroom are crucial to a broader and more nuanced understanding of the trial. Partitioning of the courtroom into zones and the restriction of movement within it are the result of turf wars about who can legitimately participate in the legal arena and call the judiciary to account. The gradual containment of the public, the increasing amount of space allocated to advocates, and the creation of dedicated space for journalists and the jury, all have complex histories that deserve attention.
The court as spectacle
But these issues are not only of historical significance. Across jurisdictions, questions are now being asked about the internal configurations of the courthouse and courtroom, and whether standard designs meet the needs of modern participatory democracies: including questions about the presence and design of the modern dock; the ways in which new technologies threaten to change the dynamics of the trial and lead to the dematerialization of our primary site of adversarial practice; and the extent to which courthouses are designed in ways which realise their professed status as public spaces.
This fascinating and original reflection on legal architecture will be of interest to socio-legal or critical scholars working in the field of legal geography, legal history, criminology, legal systems, legal method, evidence, human rights and architecture.
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