Embracing ‘Procedural Fairness’ in Court


The machinations of court proceedings are often a mystery to those not regularly involved in the criminal justice system. Victims often fear testifying, and the terms of court orders aren't always made clear to defendants.

But a new report by the non-profit Center for Court Innovation suggests that judges can improve victim and defendant satisfaction with court processes by embracing ‘procedural fairness’ — the process by which decisions are made to feel fairer.

Researchers identify four elements that “drive citizens' perceptions of fairness”:

Neutrality: Do decisions come across as being made “in an unbiased and trustworthy manner?”

Respect: Do citizens feel they've been treated treated with dignity?

Understanding: Is the decision-making process and rationale made clear to citizens and do they know what is expected of them as a result of court decisions?

Voice: “Has the citizen had an opportunity to be heard?”

Relatively simple strategies, such as having judges explain court decisions in plain-language (without legalese), and written reminders about court appearances and payments, can go along way to inspire confidence in the justice system, according to the report.

Read the full report HERE.

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