Bench in legal contexts means simply the location in a courtroom where a judge sits. The historical roots of that meaning come from judges formerly having sat on long seats or benches (freestanding or against a wall) when presiding over a court. In modern courtrooms, the bench is usually an elevated desk area that allows a judge to view the entire courtroom.
The word also has a broader meaning in the law – the term "bench" is a metonym used to describe members of the judiciary collectively, or the judges of a particular court, such as the Queen's Bench or the Common Bench in England and Wales, or the federal bench in the United States. The term is also used when all the judges of a certain court sit together to decide a case, as in the phrase "before the full bench" (also called "en banc"). Additionally, the term is used to differentiate judges ("the bench") from attorneys or barristers ("the bar"). The phrase "bench and bar" denotes all judges and lawyers collectively.
- Walker, David (1980). Oxford Companion to Law. Oxford University Press. p. 123. ISBN 0-19-866110-X.
- In Italy, in the law on the conflict between powers, the ordinance drawn by the judge at the bench (...) is the legal system's response to the suffered invasion of his range of power: Buonomo, Giampiero (2005). "La Consulta apre alla libertà delle forme e ascolta i giudici che sostituiscono l'ordinanza al ricorso". Diritto&Giustizia edizione online. – via Questia (subscription required)
- Black, Henry Campbell (1990). Black's Law Dictionary, 6th ed. St. Paul, MN.: West Publishing. p. 155. ISBN 0-314-76271-X.