Ex Parte Rules — Keys To Trial Transparency And Fairness

Posted on: 7 October 2022

The United States criminal justice system is designed to try to obtain a fair trial for anyone accused of a crime. One key component of doing this is trying to ensure that both parties to a trial have the same basic information and the same opportunities to argue their case fairly.

That fairness relies on an important legal concept known as ex parte. What are ex parte communications and motions? And what should you know to protect yourself from ex parte improprieties? Here are a few answers to your questions.

What Are Ex Parte Communications? 

The Latin term ex parte basically means something that occurs without one party involved. In legal terms, there are basically two parties — the prosecution or plaintiff and the defendant — to the case. Any communications between them and a judge or juror must generally include the other party's representatives. If the other party is not included, the communication is ex parte.

Why Are Ex Parte Rules Important?

As mentioned, rules prohibiting conversations or legal matters from being discussed without one party or the other protect both sides. It prevents anyone from being privy to secret information and anyone from not being able to mount an informed defense of their case. If the prosecution seeks to have a piece of evidence thrown out, the defense attorneys get their chance to argue the other side as well. 

In addition, ex parte rules boost transparency that gives credence and legitimacy to trials. The plaintiff cannot casually chat with a juror during a smoke break, for instance, and gain additional insight or make their case outside of court. 

Are There Exceptions to Ex Parte Rules?

The law allows for specific exceptions to ex parte rules. One of the most common is when one party seeks an emergency restraining order. The judge may allow the person asking for the protective order to present their argument why an order should be granted without involving the potentially dangerous party into the mix. 

The second most common exception has to do with administrative matters involving the jury. The judge and jurors may resolve things like scheduling conflicts or personal emergencies without both sides of the case. However, this is limited to things not involving the legal issues of the case.

Where Can You Learn More?

When you understand your rights and responsibilities before and during a trial, you can better protect yourself and receive a fair hearing. Want to know more about ex parte rules and exclusions? Concerned that your rights may have been violated? Contact a law office near you for more information.