Tosefta Sanhedrin states what seems to be a simple and very logical fact:
הנשיא יושב באמצע וזקנים יושבים מימינו ומשמאלו
(sefaria.org)The Nasi [leader of the court] sat in the middle [of the semicircle of judges] and the other judges were seated to his left and right.
However, when Rambam (Hilchos Sanhedrin 1:3) describes the seating arrangement it looks like this:
הַגָּדוֹל בְּחָכְמָה שֶׁבְּכֻלָּן מוֹשִׁיבִין אוֹתוֹ רֹאשׁ עֲלֵיהֶן וְהוּא רֹאשׁ הַיְשִׁיבָה וְהוּא שֶׁקּוֹרִין אוֹתוֹ הַחֲכָמִים נָשִׂיא בְּכָל מָקוֹם וְהוּא הָעוֹמֵד תַּחַת משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ. וּמוֹשִׁיבִין הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁבַּשִּׁבְעִים מִשְׁנֶה לָרֹאשׁ וְיוֹשֵׁב מִימִינוֹ וְהוּא הַנִּקְרָא אַב בֵּית דִּין וּשְׁאָר הַשִּׁבְעִים יוֹשְׁבִין לְפָנָיו כְּפִי שְׁנֵיהֶם וּכְפִי מַעֲלָתָם. כָּל הַגָּדוֹל מֵחֲבֵרוֹ בְּחָכְמָה יִהְיֶה קָרוֹב לַנָּשִׂיא מִשְּׂמֹאלוֹ יוֹתֵר מֵחֲבֵרוֹ
Abridged translation: The wisest of the judges is the Nasi. Second to him is the Av Beis Din who sits to his right. The remaining judges sit to the left of the Nasi; the wiser they are the closer they sit to the Nasi.
From here it would emerge that the Nasi and Av Beis Din sat all the way to one side of the semicircle and the other judges sat to their left. Kessef Mishnah (here) points out that there is no contradiction, for when Tosefta says that the Nasi sat "in the middle" it does not mean that he sat in the very center of the court but only that he was sitting between other people. And he did not have equal numbers of judges to his right and left — he actually had only one judge to his right (the Av Beis Din) and all the remaining judges sat to his left.
[All of the above applies to the great sanhedrin of 71 members, for that is where the Nasi would preside. Rambam (above) writes that in the smaller courts there was also a leader, although he had no official title. This leader presumably sat in the same position occupied by the Nasi in the great sanhedrin.]
In my original rendering (below) this was not really a concern because all of my purple-robed judges are identical and you can't tell which is the Nasi/leader.
|Minor sanhedrin courthouse|
|The judges of the court|
|Nasi/Leader of the court|
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