Darrell Brooks – What’s with all the legalese? – Opinion

Posted at 3:04 PM, October 27, 2022 and last updated 12:51 PM, December 14, 2022

By: Judge Ashley Willcott

Waukesha, Wisconsin (Court TV) – For the last three weeks, the world has watched Darrell Brooks represent himself in court, facing 76 charges including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide after he intentionally drove an SUV into last year’s Waukesha Christmas Parade, killing six people and injuring 61 others.

He was disrespectful, unprofessional, argumentative, and difficult to watch as he dishonored the court, judge and our judicial system. Numerous times, he was removed from the courtroom following his refusal to respect and abide by the direction of the court. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found Brooks guilty of all charges.

Brooks does not have a law degree, but he might have fooled some as he spouted off his own version of “legalese” throughout the trial.  He would use words like pro se, pro per, competency, sovereign citizen, subject matter jurisdiction, jury nullification and motions for everything.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand the legal terminology and phrasing used by attorneys and in the legal field, but it’s even harder when used inappropriately or out of context. This is the benefit of having an attorney who knows how to try a case — and the benefit of having Court TV.

One of my producers, Jazmine Hawes, suggested developing a “Darrell Brooks Trial Glossary,” which is an effective way to break it all down.



Batson challenge: A challenge made by one party against the other during alleging that the other party improperly used peremptory challenges to eliminate potential jurors from the jury on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity or religion.

Jury nullification: A jury finds not guilty in spite of finding the evidence proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Motion: a request to a court for a desired ruling or order. A motion can be written or spoken, dependent on the relevant court rules.

Pro se (pro per): A defendant represents themselves in court.

Sovereign citizens: individuals who claim they are not under the jurisdiction of the federal government, and consider themselves exempt from the United States laws.

Subject matter jurisdiction: A given court has the power to hear the specific kind of claim/issue brought before that court.

When used correctly, legalese is beneficial. It allows lawyers to speak in the most efficient way possible and allows attorneys to communicate with the judge and lawyers in a way that makes sense and is easily understood.


Let us know on social media @courttv #fromthebench


Watch Judge Ashley Willcott, weekdays from 3 to 5 p.m. ET. on Court TV Live, your front row seat to justice.

More In: