Jennifer C Hurley1
1 PhD Candidate, Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University.
The psychology of procedural justice explains peoples’ reactions to court decision making processes. Through fostering individuals’ subjective perceptions of fairness, court processes that apply procedural justice can improve the experiences of court users and their motivations to comply with decisions. Significantly, an individual’s experience of procedural justice is not reliant on a favourable outcome. The elements that shape individuals’ judgments about their satisfaction with decision makers are voice, respect, neutrality and trust. As key legal players in the court room, lawyers can either adopt or block innovative practices. Adopting procedural justice requires an understanding of why individuals are concerned with the opportunity to tell their story and be heard, being treated with dignity and genuine concern, and the consistent application of legal principles by an authority figure who acts in good faith. Non-adversarial lawyers wanting to improve their practice require this knowledge as well as advanced communication skills. Procedural justice offers a robust framework on which to learn, develop and apply these skills. One forum where procedural justice can offer the potential for lawyers to improve the experiences of court users is in problem-oriented courts. Aimed at improving the well-being of individuals and communities, problem-oriented courts focus on individuals’ health and social problems to address their chronic criminal behaviour. As part of the international movement to adopt therapeutic practices in mainstream courts, Australian lawyers need to understand how individuals can benefit from this non-adversarial approach to law. Despite the growth in problem oriented practices in Australia there has been little focus on the potential for procedural justice to enhance court practices. In particular there is little known about lawyers’ perceptions of procedural justice and its role in improving the experiences of court users. The first stage in a PhD thesis, this paper explores the role of lawyers in promoting procedural justice in court.
Jennifer Hurley is a PhD (Law) candidate. Her research will explore lawyers’ perceptions of the impact of procedural justice on court users’ experiences. Jennifer has taught human rights law in the RMIT Juris Doctor.