U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Perception of Justice: Tort Litigants' Views of Trial, Court-Annexed Arbitration, and Judicial Settlement Conferences

NCJ Number
E A Lind; R J MacCoun; P A Ebener; W L F Felstiner; D R Hensler; J Resnik; T R Tyler
Date Published
93 pages
This study investigated the attitudes and perceptions of individual plaintiffs and defendants in relatively small personal injury tort cases in three State courts, with a focus on trial procedures, court-annexed arbitration, and judicial settlement conferences.
A total of 286 litigants were interviewed: 122 in Fairfax County, Va.; 74 in Bucks County, Pa.; and 90 in Prince Georges County, Md. Findings indicate that tort litigants are sensitive to procedural variations, and their impressions of the litigation process are significant in determining their beliefs about fairness and their satisfaction with the court. The litigants apparently wanted a dignified, careful, and unbiased hearing of their cases and desired some control over the handling of their cases and over the ultimate outcome. Litigants' positive attitudes about procedures and about the court system were closely linked to their perception that their lawyers were trustworthy and competent. Litigants did not have much interest in informal, highly participative, simplified procedures. Arbitration was viewed favorably by the litigants because it was dignified and careful, not because it was informal compared to trial procedures. Findings suggest that litigants perceptions of justice and satisfaction are more likely to come from changes in the tone of the judicial process rather than from innovations designed to cut costs or reduce delay. 3 figures, 6 tables, 101 references.