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Perceptions of the Courts in Your Community: The Influence of Experience, Race and Ethnicity, Executive Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2003
11 pages
This executive summary provides an overview of a study that examined how African-Americans, Latinos, and Whites view State courts and how recent court experience influences opinions of court.
Under examination in this study was how much support the public has for State courts, perceived fairness of the courts, quality of State courts, and the willingness of individuals with recent court experience to return to court for another matter in the future. The authors review the research literature pertaining to public opinion of courts and then describe their methodology. Telephone interviews were conducted with a randomly selected group of 954 American adults between March and May of 2000. Also interviewed was a randomly selected group of 570 individuals with recent court experience (preceding 12 months). Over-samples of African-American and Latino adults were selected to augment both the general sample and the court experience sample. Generally, the findings indicated that the public offered middle ratings of court fairness and low ratings of fairness in procedures, outcomes, and equality of treatment. Perceptions of differential court treatment were more pronounced for low income, or socioeconomic status, than for racial or ethnic status. Another important finding revealed that the public continues to perceive the courts as too costly and time consuming. Perceptions of court fairness among those with recent court experiences were slightly more negative than the perceptions held by people who had not recently been to court. Study implications include support for programs that focus on court and community collaboration.

Date Published: March 1, 2003