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Prof. Simon Creates Online Electronic Bench Book for Judges

APRIL 14, 2011—University of Law School Professor Stephen Simon has created, in a Wiki format, an electronic bench book called Trial Procedures and Practices from the Judge's Perspective. It is available on the University of Minnesota's Web site at http://ebenchbk.law.umn.edu.

The electronic bench book is designed to help judges and attorneys quickly find information on how to deal with and respond to frequently occurring issues and problems that arise at or during trial. Some of the topics and areas addressed are preserving issues for appeal, privileges, dealing with the disruptive defendant, a procedure for handling physical evidence, contempt, and judge and jury asking questions of witnesses.

Many of the evidentiary rules, trial procedures, and practices in the electronic bench book are set forth in statute, case law, rules of evidence, and the rules of civil or criminal procedure. Some practices and procedures, while not formally stated in a rule, statute, or case decision, were developed and adopted by judges to aid in the management of trials, reduce reversible error, and increase the fairness of a trial.

A judge can have the electronic bench book "open" on his or her laptop on the bench and click on a topic from the main topic list or do a word search for a topic. The Wiki then jumps to a statement of the basic rule, procedure, or practice followed by a short discussion of the topic, issue, or problem. Each topic is footnoted with the relevant law, rule, or decision. The document was designed to be easily navigated using a computer mouse.

The electronic bench book grew out of materials Simon developed and uses in Trial Management and Evidence in the Courtroom courses that he has offered to judges in Minnesota and throughout the country over the past 20 years. Law School multimedia specialist Glen Anderson and law student Chelsea Becker ('11) assisted in its development.

Simon gave the address of the electronic bench book to Minnesota judges in mid-March and reports that it has been accessed more than 2,000 times since then. He encourages judges and attorneys to contact him with additional topics or changes to existing topics at simon001@umn.edu.

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