The Criminal First-Appearance Docket

The Criminal First-Appearance Docket

Scenario: A judge must process more than 100 defendants making their first court appearances in criminal cases.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Would the defendant in one of these cases understand what had taken place in his or her case?
  2. Did the judge seem interested in making sure that the defendant understood
    1. His or her rights?
    2. The next steps that would occur in the case?
  3. How would the defendant feel about the judge and the justice system after this hearing?
  4. What steps might the judge take to improve the situation while still processing all of these cases?
  5. Could the legalese used by the judge and the attorneys be turned into words understood by a layperson?

For Further Information:

  1. For a discussion of courtroom behaviors that promote a sense of fair treatment, see So What Courtroom Behaviors Promote Perceptions of Fairness, Procedural Fairness Blog, Nov. 5, 2014, available at, or look at the Courtroom Observation Report citizen volunteers use for the Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, available at
  2. For general information about procedural-fairness principles applied to the court setting, go to