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Lets say that I'm at my own trial, representing myself pro se. I immediately object to something (anything at all - it doesn't matter what). If I understand correctly I can't be held in contempt - objecting to things is my right as a lawyer. The judge mumbles overruled (probably). I immediately object again with the same or similar objection, forcing the judge to again overrule. I keep on shouting objection ('tis my right as a lawyer that nobody can take away from me) - am I right in the assumption that the trial then cannot continue, since nobody else can be heard? I cant be stopped from objecting and the judge is lawbound to keep saying "overruled" (or "sustained") until the day is over?

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    Where are you getting the idea that a lawyer cannot be held in contempt? Jun 16, 2023 at 9:08
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    Check out the trial of Darrel Brooks on YouTube. The judge in this case decided to give extreme leeway to the defendant who was representing himself and objected without understanding the law. Jun 16, 2023 at 11:37
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    Notably Brooks was convicted and jailed for life. Jun 16, 2023 at 12:20
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    "Lets say that I'm ... representing myself pro se. ... If I understand correctly ... objecting to things is my right as a lawyer": if you're representing yourself, you may or may not be a lawyer, and whether you are or not has no relevance to your right to raise objections.
    – phoog
    Jun 17, 2023 at 22:08
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    @IKnowNothing: Even when you represent yourself, there's only so much leeway the judge will give you. If you persistently obstruct the proceedings, the judge can and will take stronger measures, as in this case.
    – Kevin
    Jun 18, 2023 at 1:40

4 Answers 4

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The Criminal Code allows a court to "cause the accused to be removed and to be kept out of court, where he misconducts himself by interrupting the proceedings so that to continue the proceedings in his presence would not be feasible" (s. 650(2)).

An accused who is disrupting and paralyzing the proceedings is themself affecting the fairness of the trial:

The rights afforded accused persons cannot be permitted to undermine the object for which they are given – the holding of a fair trial according to law. ... “... the many safeguards built into the criminal justice system for an accused, particularly an unrepresented one, cannot be allowed to give rise to a right in an accused person to disrupt the orderly process of a trial.”

(R. v. Schneider, 2004 NSCA 99)

The judge has many options available to them short of removal, and even after removal, there are ways to allow the accused to participate:

  • the judge can provide instructions on procedure and what objections can be made
  • the judge can tell the accused that objections of the sort being made are not in order
  • the judge can order the accused to be silent
  • the judge can issue a contempt order
  • the judge remove the accused from the courtroom
  • the judge can allow the accused participate in the hearings via video and microphone, with the ability to mute the video and/or audio
  • the judge can allow them back into the courtroom with conditions
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I am guessing that the question is about the United States, since the "objection!" procedure is not the same in other places.

The Supreme Court has held that even though you have the right to represent yourself, this is conditional on your maintenance of proper conduct. If you disrupt proceedings and disregard judicial directions, then the judge can find you in contempt of court, just as with anybody else who was doing that.

In Illinois v Allen, 397 U.S. 337 (1970), a self-represented litigant "started to argue with the judge in a most abusive and disrespectful manner", threatened the judge's life, and made clear that he intended to filibuster the process, saying "There is going to be no proceeding. I'm going to start talking and I'm going to keep on talking all through the trial. There's not going to be no trial like this." The judge ordered him removed from the courtroom on several instances of this behavior, and also appointed professional counsel. Following a series of appeals against all this, the Supreme Court ultimately said:

Although mindful that courts must indulge every reasonable presumption against the loss of constitutional rights, Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U. S. 458, 304 U. S. 464 (1938), we explicitly hold today that a defendant can lose his right to be present at trial if, after he has been warned by the judge that he will be removed if he continues his disruptive behavior, he nevertheless insists on conducting himself in a manner so disorderly, disruptive, and disrespectful of the court that his trial cannot be carried on with him in the courtroom. Once lost, the right to be present can, of course. be reclaimed as soon as the defendant is willing to conduct himself consistently with the decorum and respect inherent in the concept of courts and judicial proceedings.

It is essential to the proper administration of criminal justice that dignity, order, and decorum be the hallmarks of all court proceedings in our country. The flagrant disregard in the courtroom of elementary standards of proper conduct should not and cannot be tolerated. We believe trial judges confronted with disruptive, contumacious, stubbornly defiant defendants must be given sufficient discretion to meet the circumstances of each case. No one formula for maintaining the appropriate courtroom atmosphere will be best in all situations. We think there are at least three constitutionally permissible ways for a trial judge to handle an obstreperous defendant like Allen: (1) bind and gag him, thereby keeping him present; (2) cite him for contempt; (3) take him out of the courtroom until he promises to conduct himself properly.

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    @Jon At the risk of stating the obvious- the appeals process isn't "what Jon reckons" Jun 16, 2023 at 10:19
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    @Jon people are trying to inform you - and the Allen case is evidence - that judges are not required to have infinite tolerance.
    – Lag
    Jun 16, 2023 at 11:48
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    @Jon The fact is that it has a supreme court ruling as precedent. Jun 16, 2023 at 12:21
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    @Jon "Does not an individual have a right to a fair trial when every benefit of the doubt must be given to him?": No. An individual has a right to a fair trial. This does not mean that every benefit of the doubt must be given.
    – phoog
    Jun 17, 2023 at 22:18
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    @Jon The hypothetical you're describing is not a complexity. It's a defendant acting like a five-year-old who thinks they've discovered a loophole of the "I don't wanna" variety, and it's going to be roughly as effective as trying that on your actual parents would be. Jun 19, 2023 at 9:27
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You do not have the "right" to make baseless objections, either as a defendant or as a lawyer.

Once the judge gets sick of you wasting the court's time, they will likely ask you to stop or be found in contempt of court.

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“'tis my right as a lawyer that nobody can take away from me”

What an imagination you have!

You must follow the rules of the court and the judge will shut you down very quickly if you don’t.

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    If I'm not allowed to object could I not appeal the verdict and say that I wasn't allowed to submit valid objections? I would admit that some objections had been silly but I had intended to submit reasonable ones later and the judge had taken away that right. My trial is no longer fair
    – Jon
    Jun 16, 2023 at 9:20
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    @Jon you are allowed to submit valid objections. You’re not allowed to be an arse. Providing the judge was just enforcing the rules, the appeals court will not overturn the decision.
    – Dale M
    Jun 16, 2023 at 9:25
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    @Jon According to this US Government website "Although some cases are decided based on written briefs alone, many cases are selected for an "oral argument" before the court. ... Each side is given a short time — usually about 15 minutes — to present arguments to the court." So it looks as if you can appeal, but the judges get to decide whether you get to appear before them. So if they look at the brief and decide that the appellant it a pillock, they are unlikely to call for oral arguments. Jun 17, 2023 at 6:50
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    @Jon the appeals court would heavily weigh the reason the trial was rendered unfair, would see that but for your actions would have gotten a fair trial, and interpreted your actions as you opting out of your fair trial. Another way of looking at this is, adverse statements and conduct in court are allowed to be held against you. Jun 17, 2023 at 17:50
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    @Jon The judge didn't take away that right, you forfeited your right by choosing to be a disruptive jerk until everyone else's patience ran out. You could try arguing that your trial was unfair but all you're likely to get are very skeptical looks. Jun 19, 2023 at 9:25

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