Procedural Justice

Research has shown that when defendants and litigants perceive the court process to be fair, they are more likely to comply with court orders and follow the law in the future—regardless of whether they “win” or “lose” their case. The Center for Court Innovation is committed to advancing the idea of procedural justice through demonstration projects, research, and technical assistance.

Practical Tips and Tools

The Center for Court Innovation has assembled several practical tools, including defendant interview instruments and courtroom observation protocols, to assist courts in assessing the extent to which they are implementing the principles of  procedural justice. For more information, click here.

Publications

Improving Courtroom Communication: A Procedural Justice Experiment in Milwaukee

Improving Courtroom Communication: A Procedural Justice Experiment in Milwaukee

By Erin Farley, Elise Jensen and Michael Rempel

This is an evaluation of a pilot project at the Milwaukee County Criminal Court, intended to enhance defendant perceptions of procedural justice by improving the oral, written, and nonverbal communication used by judges. Among the findings, courtroom observations measured an increase in the use of 14 practices that helped improve communication. Judges became more likely to: begin the court session by explaining why cases would be called in a certain order; make eye contact with defendants; use plain English to explain procedures and decisions; ask if defendants or their attorneys had anything to say before the decision; and demonstrate an interest in the defendants understanding of plea agreements. The most influential dimensions of procedural justice were found to be voice (perceived ability to convey one's side of the story), respect (perceived respectful treatment), and helpfulness (perceived interest in meeting defendants needs).

Articles

Improving Courtroom Communication: A National Experiment

Improving Courtroom Communication: A National Experiment

By Emily Gold

With funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Center for Court Innovation and The National Judicial College have launched a national demonstration project that will attempt to improve procedural justice in an urban criminal court setting.

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Publications

Procedural Justice From the Bench: How Judges Can Improve the Effectiveness of Criminal Courts

Procedural Justice From the Bench: How Judges Can Improve the Effectiveness of Criminal Courts

By Greg Berman and Emily Gold

This essay from The Judges' Journal seeks to articulate lessons from drug courts that are applicable in all criminal courts. It includes concrete recommendations for judges on improving courtroom communication.

Interviews

Kevin Burke, District Judge, Hennepin County, Minnesota

Kevin Burke, District Judge, Hennepin County, Minnesota

Kevin Burke helped lead the effort to create the Hennepin County Drug Court in 1997, and advocated for the creation of the Hennepin County Mental Health Court as well. Here he talks about the success of these courts, and how Hennepin County has made efforts to institutionalize problem solving in its court system.

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Interviews

Tom Tyler PhD, Professor, Yale University

Tom Tyler PhD, Professor, Yale University

Tom Tyler, a professor at Yale University and leading advocate of procedural justice, talks about recent research on the topic, as well as the challenges and opportunities for procedural justice practices to be institutionalized system-wide.

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Publications

The New York State Residents Survey: Public Perceptions of New York's Courts

The New York State Residents Survey: Public Perceptions of New York's Courts

By Donald J. Farole, Jr.

This study reports the results of a survey of 1,002 adult residents of New York State concerning their perceptions of the courts. The study found that New Yorkers have high levels of trust and confidence in the courts in general, although racial and ethnic minorities, particularly African-Americans, are far less supportive than are whites. The study also determined that most New Yorkers have little knowledge of how their local courts work.

Articles

Judges Matter: How Courts Reduce Crime and Save Money

Judges Matter: How Courts Reduce Crime and Save Money

By Greg Berman and Michael Rempel

This op-ed from the New York Law Journal reports findings from a drug court study that suggests the success of drug courts stems largely from the judge.

Most Popular Research

Publications

Procedural Fairness in California: Initiatives, Challenges, and Recommendations

Procedural Fairness in California: Initiatives, Challenges, and Recommendations

By Rachel Porter

This report, commissioned by the Administrative Office of the Courts in California, describes initiatives under way in California's civil and traffic courts to improve public perceptions of procedural fairness. The report also contains a brief self-assessment tool that court administrators can use to examine procedural fairness in their local jurisdictions.

Video

Why Procedural Justice Matters: Tom R. Tyler at Community Justice 2012

Why Procedural Justice Matters: Tom R. Tyler at Community Justice 2012

Tom R. Tyler, professor of law and psychology at Yale Law School, presents on "Procedural Justice: Why It Matters So Much" at Community Justice 2012: the International Conference of Community Courts.

Publications

The Effects of the Harlem Housing Court on Tenant Perceptions of Justice

The Effects of the Harlem Housing Court on Tenant Perceptions of Justice

By Rashida Abuwala and Donald J. Farole, Jr.

This study examines the perceptions of self-represented tenants in an innovative housing court at the Harlem Community Justice Center. Harlem tenants viewed the experience in more positive terms then litigants in a conventional court, in large part because they were more likely to perceive the court process and outcome as fair.

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