Sidebar (law)

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In the United States, the sidebar is an area in a courtroom near the judge's bench where lawyers may be called to speak with the judge so that the jury cannot hear the conversation and/or they may speak off the record. Lawyers make a formal request by stating "may I approach the bench?" or, simply "may I approach?" to initiate a sidebar conference. If it is granted, then opposing counsel must be allowed to come forward and participate in the conversation.[1]

The idea of a sidebar has its roots in Native American (specifically Cherokee) society, when in a council a member of the war or peace party wished to share information privately with a chief or shaman. This was usually because they did not wish for the attending Native Americans to panic or overrule their decision.

The term is also used generically to describe any conversation where some participants in a proceeding or meeting may step aside to discuss information not shared with the group.


  1. ^ "sidebar".