On the Need to Study Processes of Taking Minutes from Case Hearings: Contribution to and Call for Future Research


This paper’s aim is to promote greater interest in courtroom practices of minute-taking—the preparation of written documents that constitute a record of what was said and done in the courtroom during a case hearing, very often based on a judge’s dictation of rephrased questioned person’s statements to a clerk who records them. This aim is achieved through discussion ultimately focused on the distinguishable aspects of minute-taking (for example, faithfulness, frequency of interruptions, and linguistic precision), its possible underlying mechanisms (such as time limits or the quality of questioned person’s statements), and further consequences (especially for the dynamics of courtroom communication, opinions about judges, and basic procedural principles), followed by some remarks concerning the judge–clerk relationship outside the scope of minute-taking and more direct discussion of clerks themselves. The discussions and analyses presented here are empirically-grounded, forming a side result of a larger research project conducted in a Polish lower court that combined observations of case hearings with witness interviews. Despite their inadvertent origin, the investigations presented here demonstrate the complexity and multifaceted nature of minute-taking to a greater extent than previous relevant studies have revealed. While minute-taking has not been neglected entirely in legal research, there remain many questions to be addressed. This paper suggests some of these questions as well as potential directions for future research on minute-taking through discussion of how the identified aspects of minute-taking can be utilized and which theoretical frameworks may be applicable. Although the paper is a result of empirical research conducted in Poland, its aims are relevant outside the Polish context, particularly in other continental European countries where minutes are also taken from case hearings.

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The paper was prepared within the research project „Dystans władzy na sali sądowej. Studium teoretyczno-empiryczne” [“Power Distance in the Courtroom. Theoretical and Empirical Study”] sponsored by the National Science Centre of Poland (Registration number 2015/19/B/HS5/00454). The authors declare their equal contribution in the creation of the paper. They would like also to thank here Anna Drwal and Jan Bazyli Klakla (who co-conducted described observations and interviews, as a realization of their Ph.D. student scholarship position within the mentioned project) and Karolina Gmerek (who commented on the paper manuscript).

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Correspondence to Michał Dudek.

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Dudek, M., Stępień, M. On the Need to Study Processes of Taking Minutes from Case Hearings: Contribution to and Call for Future Research. Int J Semiot Law 34, 421–446 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11196-019-09675-8

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  • Legal communication
  • Courtroom interactions
  • Minute-taking
  • Observations
  • Clerks
  • Judges