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NCJ Number: 77924 Find in a Library
Title: Hidden Consequences of Court Unification
Journal: Judicature  Volume:65  Issue:1  Dated:(June-July 1981)  Pages:10-17
Author(s): J M Broder; J F Porter; W M Smathers
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 8
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Efficiency and uniformity gains from court unification must be weighed against policy changes and the redistribution of costs and benefits, according to this study of the city-county court merger in Athens, Ga.
Abstract: The study, undertaken from the perspective of local residents, measured the distributional consequences of court unification in terms of both the costs of providing court services and the level of services provided. Service quality was measured in terms of absolute fine levels (reflecting court's judgment as to the severity of the crimes) and relative fines (indicating the court's view of the seriousness of one crime relative to others). Quasi-experimental designs were adopted to measure changes in absolute fine levels. Citizens were also asked to rank the severity of the misdemeanors. The findings showed that the consolidation saved money, but the average cost per case increased for city residents and decreased for outlying county residents. Changes in both absolute and relative fine levels took place. City residents thus experienced losses in court policy compatibility, while county residents had gains. Furthermore, the unified court delivered a more uniform level of justice with respect to interest group preferences, but this was achieved by redistributing the costs and benefits of court policies. The findings indicated that policymakers planning structural changes in courts of limited jurisdiction should broaden their analysis beyond costs to consider such outcomes as the potential for changes in court policies, changes in the incidence of costs and benefits, and changes in the ability of various groups to participate effectively in the judicial process. Statistical data and reference footnotes are included.
Index Term(s): Court of limited jurisdiction; Court structure; Georgia (USA); State court unification
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