No order in the court

Every good law drama has at least one scene in which the judge resorts to banging his gavel and yelling, “Order in the court!” Of course, such scenes only make sense if the underlying assumption is that judges control their courtrooms. However, a recent Supreme Court decision from Burma suggests Burmese judges have no such luck. The justices decided that judges cannot decide who can – and, more importantly, cannot – attend a court hearing held inside a prison. Burma is notorious for conducting trials of political prisoners in prisons such as Insein and forbidding family from attending. This recent decision has received a good deal of press coverage (DVB has an article here). What’s unclear to me is whether this holding has any value as precedence for trials held outside prisons. The 2000 Judiciary Act grants judges wide discretion on whether to hold trials in camera. If the Supreme Court’s decision affects regular courts as well, it seems it would directly contradict the act. Alas, it wouldn’t be the first time Burma’s government fails to follow both the letter and spirit of the law.

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