A simple, cheap solution to making the court a touch more comfortable for lawyers and the public.
You are a lawyer, witness or member of the public, and you are sitting in the public gallery listening to your case, or more likely just waiting. You are sitting in the sitting defecation posture – hips and knees at right angles, without the luxury of holding a book or magazine or iPhone – arms by your side or neatly folded in your lap.
Then quite naturally, you lift up one of your legs and then unconsciously fold it over the other – the calf/ankle of the folded leg over the thigh/knee of the other. Before you know it the policeman stationed in court suddenly materializes by your side. He requests that you unfold your legs and keep them both firmly planted in the ground – as if to manage your expectations about the possibility of your case’s chances of success. Either that or the court interpreter would manifest her you’ve-done-something-naughty look, give the tut-tut with her face and then with a few quick strokes of her outstretched index finger conveys the same message as the policeman.
I never understood this. And this is after they explained it to me once: apparently it is disrespectful to the court to cross your legs when it is in session. How the mere crossing of one leg amounted to a gesture of disrespect was not explained. I mean it’s not as if we sit like that with our middle finger aimed squarely at the bench. We’re just crossing one leg – not even two. I’d agree that two crossed legs would be disrespectful, especially if you wearing a short skirt without under gear (see interrogation scene, Basic Instinct) or no pants and underwear. But this is one leg. At its very worst, one crossed leg is only half way to disrespect.
And because doing it is a welcome and comfortable variation of one’s sitting position over the course over a long period, it is entirely reasonable and in no way disrespectful. Many of us need to do this because the chairs we are provided with are not made for long bouts of sitting. We cross our leg to find comfort, not disrespect. If the court chairs were proper ergonomically designed seats then we should be sitting on the likes Herman Miller’s Aeron Chair (or some other variation).
I would have thought that forcing us to sit in the sitting defecation position the whole time in court is more disrespectful. After all we are sitting as if we are taking a dump the whole time – in court, no less. So from a symbolic perspective, it is civilized and even appropriate to cross one leg to vary from the prescribed one.
And we all know how comfortable it is to be able to move about a little more freely in court then to just sit rigidly like a block of wood. So this is one way the court can dramatically improve comfort levels in court without spending any money. More importantly, it would require the policeman and interpreter with less work to do. It’s win-win-win situation. Attendants of the court win, they get comfort. The policeman/interpreter wins, they do less work. The court wins, it gets to look like it actually cares about the public and lawyers. Another win – no money is spent. I’m sure there are wins involving squirrels and in some aspects of procedure, but I won’t go into that. Talk about a relentlessly winning proposal!
Fahri Azzat sat with one leg crossed and alternated with seiza sitting position while writing this article. He was not being disrespectful to his computer in doing so. He explained that he did it purely for comfort reasons. His computer understood and they get along very well now.