Archive for the ‘Theory and Research’ Category

Quarterly Research Report Includes Study of the Effect of the 2014 Events in Ferguson, Missouri, on Views of Police Legitimacy   Leave a comment

For more than a year, our website has been posting a Quarterly Research Report featuring the most notable scholarship we’ve found in procedural fairness and procedural justice. The report is edited by Justine Greve, M.A., a staff member at the Kansas Court of Appeals, and Shelley Spacek Miller, J.D., a staff member at the National Center for State Courts.
The Summer 2015 report has just been posted, and one interesting study compares views about police legitimacy among residents of St. Louis County, Missouri, in interviews taken before and after the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown. Researchers from Southern Illinois University Carbondale had done extensive interviews of nearly 400 people living in high-crime and disadvantaged parts of St. Louis County for a study on policing in 2012 and 2013. Most of the respondents in that survey lived within six miles of where Brown was killed. So the researchers followed up with new interviews of the same people in September and October 2014 to compare public perceptions before and after Brown’s shooting.
The 2014 questioning came immediately after protests, looting, and violence that followed the Brown shooting. The interviews asked questions related to police legitimacy (defined by the researchers as “a view that police authority is valid and to be respected and adhered to”) and to trust in police and procedural justice (defined by the researchers as “a belief that police act fairly, impartially, and respectfully”).
Overall, perceptions of both police legitimacy and trust/procedural justice declined (by 5% and 17% respectively). But the perception rose slightly for nonblack residents (up 2% for each) while falling significantly (by 8% and 26%) for African-American respondents. Views also diverged in feelings about the public and police responses. A majority of nonblack respondents disagreed with the public’s response to the shooting, while a majority of blacks agreed with it. A majority of nonblack respondents agreed with the police response to protests, looting, and riots in the area, while a majority of black respondents did not.
This study, of course, captures views from only a small geographical area, but the respondents certainly intensely experienced the events of that time. It’s one of many new research articles and reports that you can find in the latest Quarterly Research Report.

Evidence That Practicing Procedural Fairness Gets Better Results    Leave a comment

From time to time, it’s useful to take stock of some of the evidence that demonstrates that the judge who spends the time to learn procedural-fairness principles and who shows the discipline to practice them regularly is doing something valuable. Toward that end, let’s consider a study of drug courts operating in 29 different locations around the United States.

Like many other studies, this one concluded that drug courts do produce both significant reductions in relapse to further serious drug abuse and significant reductions in criminal behavior. But the researchers asked a critical question: Why does this occur? And that’s where the principles of procedural fairness came squarely to the fore:

Role of the Judge: The primary mechanism by which drug courts reduce substance use and crime is through the judge. Drug court offenders believe that their judge treated them more fairly than the comparison group, including demonstrating greater respect and interest in them as individuals and greater opportunities to express their own voice during proceedings. Furthermore, when offenders have more positive attitudes toward the judge, they have better outcomes. This was true across all offender subgroups when examining demographics, drug use history, criminality, and mental health. A separate analysis drawing upon the results of structured courtroom observations found, similarly, that drug courts whose judge was rated by members of the research team as exhibiting a more positive judicial demeanor (e.g., respectful, fair, attentive, enthusiastic, consistent/predictable, caring, and knowledgeable) produced better outcomes than other drug courts. Both analyses reaffirmed the central role of the judge.”

Drug courts by design provide greater voice to defendants and opportunities for judges to show respectful treatment of defendants. Judges who do a good job in carrying out these roles get better results—and this appears to be true across various demographic groups. Sounds like a winner to me.

The study, reported in 2011, was done by the Urban Institute, the Center for Court Innovation, and RTI International. The Executive Summary is a quick and easy read.



Procedural Justice Research Applied to Judicial Behavior in Settlement Sessions   Leave a comment

Guest Post by Bobbie McAdoo, Professor, Hamline University School of Law

A new book, The Multi-Tasking Judge (Thomson Reuters, Tania Sourdin and Archie Zariski, eds.) contains a chapter that readers of this blog will find interesting: “The Application of Procedural Justice Research to Judicial Actions and Techniques in Settlement Sessions.” (Available to download at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2282055)  The co-authored chapter (Nancy Welsh, Professor at Penn State Dickinson School of Law, Donna Stienstra, Senior Researcher at the Federal Judicial Center, and Bobbi McAdoo, Professor at Hamline University School of Law) contains a work-in-progress questionnaire designed to assess lawyers’ perceptions of the procedural justice offered in judicial settlement sessions. The questionnaire could potentially have multiple users: judges seeking confidential feedback on their management of settlement sessions; individual courts or court systems seeking systematic information regarding their judges’ settlement efforts; and those working on larger empirical research projects.

The questionnaire asks about: 1) the concrete judicial actions that occur during settlement sessions; 2) the relationship between these concrete actions and lawyers’ (and clients’) perceptions of procedural and substantive justice; and 3) the influence of contextual factors upon such perceptions (e.g., whether the settlement judge is the presiding judge, whether the judicial action occurred in joint session or caucus, etc). The lawyer questionnaire is the first of a planned set of questionnaires on judicial settlement that will eventually include questionnaires for clients and judges.

Readers of this blog are invited to send comments and suggestions to the authors for the next iteration of the questionnaire; and/or to offer assistance in pre-testing the questionnaire. Nancy Welsh is at nxw10@psu.edu; Donna Stienstra is at dstienst@fjc.gov; Bobbi McAdoo is at bmcadoo@hamline.edu.

The chapter also provides an interesting brief contextual history of judicial settlement in the U.S., including the evolution of relevant rules of civil procedure and judicial ethics provisions and the current state of judicial performance evaluation.

Respect for Procedural Fairness Is Innate—Even Among Chimps   Leave a comment

One of the reasons that procedural fairness works as a strategy for judges, police officers, and others is that everyone has an innate understanding of what it is to be treated fairly. New research shows that a sense of fairness isn’t even uniquely human—chimpanzees have it too.

Researchers from Emory University and Georgia State University used a form of what is called an ultimatum game, which is often used by researchers in behavioral economics. The traditional version of the ultimatum game, used with adult humans, goes like this:  Groups of subjects are broken into pairs. One person is given a sum of money and can give any part of that to the other person. If the other person accepts the offer, both parties keep what they have. But if the other person rejects the offer, neither one gets anything. There is only one chance, and the parties don’t communicate.

An economist might suggest that the first person can offer the other a pittance—the other person will be better off with something than nothing, and the party making the offer is better off with as much of the loot as he or she can keep. But in repeated tests, that’s not how real people play the game. The first party usually offers more than a minimal share of the total, and the second party usually rejects offers of very small shares. Why? Researchers have long argued that it’s because people value both fair treatment and others’ perceptions that they have been fair.

New research shows that similar results occur when an ultimatum game is played with children and with chimpanzees. The game rules were modified for use with these less-verbal groups. The researchers gave one individual the option to choose between two differently colored tokens. With the help of a partner, the tokens could be exchanged for rewards. One token favored only the individual chimp who made the choice between tokens; the other token provided equal rewards. Where the second chimp’s participation was required, the first chimp regularly chose the token that rewarded both chimps. Children made similar choices.

Some have suggested that this new finding with chimps isn’t surprising—after all, chimps, like humans, are used to cooperation and have a well-developed social structure. Either way, it’s worth remembering that fair play seems to be an innate human (and chimpanzee) trait. So it’s not surprising that whether a person feels treated fairly will have an effect.

—Steve Leben

Posted April 1, 2013 by proceduralfairness in Theory and Research

What’s It All About?   4 comments

So what’s  procedural fairness thing, anyway? Professor Tom Tyler has identified four basic components that comprise procedural fairness and drive public opinion about the courts:

1. Voice:  litigants’ ability to participate in the case by expressing their viewpoint;

2. Neutrality:  consistently applied legal principles, unbiased decision makers, and a transparency about how decisions are made;

3. Respect:  individuals are treated with dignity and their rights are explicitly protected; and

4. Trust:  authorities are benevolent, caring, and sincerely trying to help the litigants—a trust garnered by listening to individuals and by explaining or justifying decisions that address the litigants’ needs.

Now that you know what it is, is it important? It sure seems to be. An extensive 2005 study in the California state courts found that perceptions of procedural fairness were “the strongest predictor by far” of public confidence in the California court system. Simply, if litigants or members of the public perceived that the courts provided fair treatment in the aspects Tyler identified, their overall opinion of the court system was much more positive. This was true across different ethnic groups, across gender, and across income and educational levels.

In addition, procedural fairness plays an important role in improving compliance with court orders. Several studies strongly suggest that when litigants perceive that they’ve been treated fairly, they are more likely to comply with the court orders that follow.

For a useful introduction to procedural-fairness principles, three articles from Court Review, the journal of the American Judges Association, will do the trick:

[Steve Leben]