panel | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Law

In criminal justice, a panel refers to a group of judges deciding a case, potential jurors, or a list of suitable lawyers for court-appointed counsel, depending on the context.

1. Panel of Judges

A panel, first and foremost, can be a group of judges. Typically, these judges work together to decide on appellate cases. Appellate cases are ones that have already gone through a trial court but are being reviewed because one party believes a legal error was made. Usually, a panel consists of three judges, but the number can vary.

Each judge in the panel independently reviews the facts and the law of the case. After that, they collectively decide whether the original trial court made the right decision. If the panel determines a mistake was made, they can change the outcome of the case. By having multiple judges, this system ensures fairness and accuracy in decision-making.

2. Juries

Secondly, a panel can also refer to a group of potential jurors in a trial. The selection process, known as voir dire, involves choosing unbiased citizens to evaluate the evidence and make a verdict. This group starts large, often with dozens of people. The prosecution and defense each have the opportunity to question these individuals. Both sides can then challenge certain people if they feel these individuals cannot be impartial, thus narrowing down the pool. In the end, the jury usually includes 12 members and a few alternates.

3. Panel of Attorneys

Finally, in the context of criminal justice, it can be a list of attorneys. These attorneys are both qualified and willing to serve as court-appointed counsel. Defendants who can’t afford their own lawyers are entitled to one as part of their constitutional rights. A judge selects a lawyer from the group to represent these defendants. This way, everyone, regardless of their economic status, gets a fair chance in court.

After all, the use of ‘panel’ in these three contexts plays an essential role in the criminal justice system. Whether it’s a panel of judges reviewing appellate cases, a group of potential jurors ensuring an unbiased trial, or a panel of attorneys giving defendants fair representation, each panel upholds justice.

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Last Modified: 97/12/2023


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