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Judges in US courtrooms famously use a gavel at appropriately dramatic points in a trial. If a judge fails to use a gavel, or uses it at the wrong moment, is this legally significant? Or is the gavel purely ceremonial?

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It is purely ceremonial. The tendency in modern jurisprudence is towards the practical and away from legalisms and technicalities. Even if a judge used a gavel in some way inappropriately, it would be unlikely to have any legal significance for anyone but the judge.

An argument based on gavel misuse would fall into the "fringe-on-the-flag" category of legal arguments (yes, there are people who think that the court's powers are determined entirely by the fringe on the courhouse flag). The gavel is a traditional trapping of a common law courtroom, but has no legal significance.

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    Can you bolster this answer with some references that would back up your claims in your answer? – Chad May 27 '15 at 16:17
  • @Chad: That falls into the realm of "proving a negative." – feetwet May 27 '15 at 16:36
  • I really do not think so The tendency in modern jurisprudence is towards the practical & "fringe-on-the-flag" & there are people who think that the court's powers are determined entirely by the fringe on the courhouse flag are all things that should be relatively easy to reference assuming what you say is true. And if it is purely ceremonial then I would think that would be referable too. – Chad May 27 '15 at 16:44
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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gavel – Robert Cartaino May 27 '15 at 17:33
  • Do gavels share a common ancestor with ceremonial maces? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceremonial_mace – user662852 Aug 7 '15 at 18:30

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