Procedural Fairness Resources for the New (or Experienced) Judge   Leave a comment

New judges are appointed or elected regularly, and we’d like to give you a jump start in finding resources on how to make sure that the people who come through your court feel fairly treated. Several decades of social-science research have been dedicated to this topic—under the heading either of procedural justice or procedural fairness. More experienced judges should also find plenty of interest in these resources.

Social scientists (mostly social psychologists) tend to call it procedural justice; judges tend to call it procedural fairness. By either name, it’s the study of the connection between how judges handle their courts and what makes court participants feel fairly treated.

A good starting point is the Bench Card on Procedural Fairness, which we put out in 2018. Cosponsored by the American Judges Association, National Center for State Courts, Center for Court Innovation, and National Judicial College, the bench card puts on two pages the key principles of procedural fairness, tips for trial judges, and links to the leading articles explaining these concepts for a judicial audience.

There’s also a website,, that has links to research papers in both the court and law-enforcement contexts, information about how procedural-fairness concepts have been implemented in courts throughout the United States, and links to other websites in the area.

We also have a set of audio and video resources at

  • We have four video scenarios—all based on real situations—that could come up in court or in the courthouse. Watch the video and reflect on what you or other court actors should do in that situation. Each scenario includes a list of discussion questions and links for more information related to that scenario.
  • We have 11 video interviews with national leaders in procedural fairness. These interviews were done on behalf of the American Judges Association under a State Justice Institute grant. As a starting point, go to the interviews with Tom Tyler and Emily Gold LaGratta. Prof. Tyler has been the academic leader in this area for decades, and he provides an overview of the basic concepts as well as some insights he’s gained over his extended research. LaGratta describes the work she did with the Center for Court Innovation in pilot projects and training programs.
  • We also have nine audio podcasts put together by Justine Greve, who used to be a member of my staff at the Kansas Court of Appeals. The first three podcasts are excerpts from the American Judges Association video interviews. She organizes what the various speakers had to say by topic area. The first one suggests ways judges can improve their communication from the bench; another talks about using procedural-fairness principles in rating and training judges; a third explains how procedural fairness functions as the central measure for judging whether an authority is legitimate. For the other six podcasts, Greve interviewed authors of recent articles of interest in the area. These podcasts will provide a great introduction to their research. If you want more, a link to the publication is also included.

For those who would like a more organized introduction, I’d mention two possibilities:

  • The National Center for State Courts Institute for Court Management has an online course, Procedural Fairness for Judicial Officers and Court Personnel. It’s free; you can register online and move through the course on your own.
  • Emily LaGratta, now a consultant with her own website, offers a reasonably priced “teeny course” that can help a court team work through procedural-fairness issues over a four-week period as a group. Sometimes there’s grant funding available to underwrite all or part of the cost. She also keeps a good list of recent publications. It includes links to things like court signage, model court websites, and practical tips for courts.

I began my work in this area during my 27 years as a Kansas trial and appellate judge. I’m now a law professor at the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law, and procedural justice remains one of my focus areas. Feel free to contact me ( with thoughts, questions, or comments.—Steve Leben, Douglas R. Stripp Missouri Distinguished Professor of Law, Univeristy of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

Posted March 29, 2023 by Steve Leben in Uncategorized

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