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A judicial assistant keeps things running smoothly for the judge. Since judicial assistants work at all levels of federal, state and local courts, the number, titles and duties of judicial assistants varies by the jurisdiction. Judges have duties in their chambers, or the office, and in the the courtroom. An assistant working in chambers may be called a secretary or an administrative assistant. The courtroom assistant may be called the courtroom deputy or tipstaff.
In dealing with the public, the judicial assistant might be the primary contact. In chambers, this involves greeting visitors and answering the telephone. In the courtroom, the assistant directs members of the public who wander into the courtroom to the appropriate areas and interacts with parties and witnesses who are in the courtroom for scheduled matters.
Assistants keep the judge organized. These tasks can be mundane -- someone has to brew the coffee -- but often require high attention to detail. In chambers, the duties are rather secretarial in nature: manage the judge's schedule, arranging travel, organizing the calendar, handling interoffice filing, typing letters, preparing agendas, transcribing dictation, opening mail, distributing mail, and preparing outgoing mail. The courtroom assistant spends less time behind a computer because he in charge of keeping the courtroom running smoothly. This includes making sure the courtroom is clean and set up properly, confirming that the parties are present before summoning the judge, administering oaths and ferrying messages for the judge.
When technology is used in the courtroom, judicial assistants coordinate and operate the equipment. If the court uses electronic court reporting equipment, the courtroom judicial assistant manages the equipment to ensure that it is operational and has adequate power throughout the court proceedings. When the court allows a party or witness to appear by telephone or video conference, the judicial assistant operates the equipment and manages the practical aspects of transferring the call into the courtroom.
During jury trials, a judicial assistant may have responsibility for the jury, ensuring the comfort of the jury members and serving as a communication liaison between the jury, the court and the attorneys. These duties are often quite practical, and can include getting jury members in the right seats, ordering meals, setting out water, checking to make sure all jury members reappear after a break or escorting a sequestered jury outside of the courtroom.
Kelly Mroz has more than 12 years of experience as an attorney in family, business and estate matters. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where she served as an associate editor for the "Journal of Law and Commerce." Mroz's work has also been published in the "Pennsylvania Family Law Quarterly."