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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 84047 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Examining Local Legal Culture - Practitioner Attitudes in Four Criminal Courts
Author(s): T W Church
Corporate Author: National Ctr for State Courts
Publications Dept
United States of America
Date Published: 1982
Page Count: 133
Sponsoring Agency: National Ctr for State Courts
Williamsburg, VA 23185
National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
Washington, DC 20531
National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
US Dept of Justice NIJ Pub
Washington, DC 20531
Grant Number: 78-MU-AX-0023
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America
Document: PDF
Dataset: DATASET 1
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study examined the relationship between aspects of local court operations and the local legal culture (norms and attitudes held by judges, attorneys, prosecutors, and others in the legal system) in Miami, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Bronx County, N.Y., felony level courts.
Abstract: Judges, prosecutors, and attorneys were queried on how specific criminal cases could best be handled by a court system, if given adequate resources. The samples varied in size and category from 5 (Miami judges) to 42 (Miami prosecuting attorneys); 242 questionnaires were returned. Respondents reacted to 12 hypothetical cases constructed from elements that affect disposition: the seriousness of the crime, the defendant's prior criminal record, and the strength of the evidence. Analyzed elements of local legal culture include norms governing mode of disposition, sentencing, and time between arrest and trial. The preferred pace of case disposition time differed among the court systems and generally followed differences in actual disposition time. Attitudes toward the appropriateness of trial dispositions displayed a similar pattern: agreement within court systems, disagreement among them. On issues relating to the outcome of the case, court systems also tended to reflect distinctive local practices. Two systems were plea-bargain-oriented, two trial-oriented. Sentencing norms in one system were comparatively lenient, in two relatively stringent. Furthermore, within court systems, defense and prosecuting attorneys held different views on plea bargaining and sentencing. These findings underscore the importance of local legal culture, not only in understanding particular court systems, but in explaining the failure of many court reforms which do not take local customs into account. The questionnaire is appended.
Index Term(s): Attitudes; Defense counsel; Dispositions; Felony courts; Judges; Plea negotiations; Prosecutors; Sentencing/Sanctions
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