Tips for Procedural Fairness in Court (TJ Court Craft Series #7)

The Centre for Court Innovation describes procedural justice/ procedural fairness as:

…the perceived fairness of the procedures and interpersonal communications that defendants and other litigants experience in the courthouse and courtroom, as distinguished from distributive justice, which refers to the impressions derived from case outcomes (i.e. whether the litigant ultimately “won” or “lost” the case). Numerous studies have linked procedural justice to increased compliance with court orders and reduced recidivism.

The Centre for Court Innovation has created an easy to read tip sheet to help you improve procedural justice in the courtroom.

Procedural Justice: Practical Tips for Courts is a must read for those who are new on the bench and a great refresher for “old hands”.

The tips are developed with reference to the “critical dimensions of procedural justice”:

  • Voice (litigants’ perception that they have an opportunity to be heard)
  • Respect (litigants’ perception that the judge and other court actors treat them with dignity)
  • Neutrality (litigants’ perception that decisions are made without bias); and
  • Understanding (litigants’ comprehension of the language used in court and how decisions are made).

In terms of each court appearance the guide suggests judicial officers:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Greet all parties neutrally
  • Address any timing concerns
  • Explain extraneous factors
  • Explain the court process and how decisions are made in plain language
  • Make eye contact
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Stay on task (give the case your full attention)
  • Personalize scripted language

The guide discusses these tips in more detail.

There are also tips about how to improve:

  • the general court environment; and
  • the broader court management.

Access the full guide Procedural Justice: Practical Tips for Courts – here

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

There is a lot of good new material on the Procedural Fairness web site!

And more from the Centre for Court Innovation 

How do concepts of Procedural Justice and Therapeutic Jurisprudence fit together?

As set out above, procedural justice is the “perceived fairness of the procedures and interpersonal communications that defendants and other litigants experience in the courthouse and courtroom, as distinguished from distributive justice, which refers to the impressions derived from case outcomes (i.e. whether the litigant ultimately “won” or “lost” the case) (Centre for Court Innovation, 1)

The legal philosophy of therapeutic jurisprudence invites us to draw on a range of “vineyards” to find “TJ wine”, that is, the practices and techniques that can be used by judges, lawyers and other legal actors to improve therapeutic outcomes.  One such “vineyard” for “TJ wine” is procedural justice, other “vineyards” may be the behavioural, health or social sciences, criminology, psychology or other disciplines that may inform improved therapeutic outcomes (Wexler)

For a more detailed understanding of how Therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) and Procedural Justice (PJ) fit together see David Wexler’s article “Guiding Court Conversation Along Pathways Conducive to Rehabilitation: Integrating Procedural Justice and Therapeutic Jurisprudence”

The TJ Court Craft Series provides practical insights and tools for judicial officers interested in therapeutic jurisprudence, problem solving or solution-focused approaches. 

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