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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 69876 Find in a Library
Title: Way Others See Us - It's Not What We Say in Court but How Our Bodies Speak That Telegraphs Our Message
Journal: Judges' Journal  Volume:19  Issue:3  Dated:(Summer 1980)  Pages:20-24,41
Author(s): D B Givens
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 6
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: A judge's personal manner of relating legal facts and opinions through extralinguistic, nonvocal style can be as important as words for conveying on-the-bench-image according to theories of nonverbal communication.
Abstract: Three features of the nonverbally presented self affect on-the-bench style. The unspoken message has as much, or more, of an emotional impact on receivers as words. For example, a judge who withholds his gaze and speaks hurriedly using a loud voice while sentencing a defendant to time in jail is likely to appear impatient, unfeeling, and somewhat dictatorial. Nonverbal signs of personality tend to be presented automatically, without a sender's full awareness. In addition, without self-willed effort, a judge's repertoire of nonverbal signs stabilizes and becomes fixed with age. Reactions to a projected image also become predictable and, finally, are taken for granted. Due both to the court's physical layout and the judge's role in the courtroom, witnesses, attorneys, and the accused may be hypersensitive to nonverbal cues from the judge. Moreover, body movement signs express emotions, moods, and psychosocial orientations to others. Many nonverbal signs act as implict expectation of how partners should respond, and, in accordance with the 'Clever Hans' phenomena, set up cycles of self-fulfilling prophecy. The jurors, then, would respond to the judges behavior and decide in conjunction with this behavior. Since achieving impartiality is the most important judicial trait, a moderate stand on inhibiting judicial feelings is necessary. Impartiality need not be mechanical or computerlike, yet when emotions show, they should not express uneven treatment. Judicial defensiveness is an attitude adopted to negative emotional overload of the courtroom. Signs of aversion and withdrawal (such as lip compression, excessive paper work, sarcastic paralanguage, and fast tempo behavior) may help a judge cope with stress and anger in court but do little for peoples' conception of justice received. A judge must bring to court a high degree of expressive competence. This requires a self-conscious inspection of communication style and an expansion of the nonverbal repertoire.
Index Term(s): Behavior patterns; Judicial conduct and ethics; Jury decisionmaking
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