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Procedural Justice: Practical Tips for Courts

NCJ Number
Emily G. LaGratta
Date Published
October 2015
11 pages
This report is a compilation of communication strategies and types of interactions that can improve litigants' perceptions of fairness in court procedures.
This resource was developed as part of a multi-year collaboration that involves the Center for Court Innovation, the National Judicial College, and the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance. Guidance was provided by a national advisory board of judges, court administrators, academics, and others. Each of the suggested practices is linked to one or more of the following critical dimensions of procedural justice: voice (litigants' perception that they have an opportunity to be heard); respect (litigants' perception that the judge and other court actors treat them with dignity); neutrality (litigants' perception that decisions are made without bias); and understanding (litigants' comprehension of the language used in court and how decisions are made). Tips on ways to cultivate these litigant perceptions are presented under the following broad areas of a litigant's court experience: courthouse environment, courtroom management, and each court appearance. In addition, tips are provided for enhancing procedural justice in various types of hearings, including bail hearings, plea hearings, and sentencing. Procedural justice for special populations involved in court procedures is also addressed. These special populations include in-custody defendants, court users with limited English proficiency, and defendants with social service needs, as well as other challenging populations.