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Efficient, Fair, and Incomprehensible: How the State “Sells” Its Judiciary

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Socio-legal scholars often approach dispute resolution from the perspective of the disputants, emphasizing how the resources on each side shape the course of conflict. We suggest a different, “supply-side,” perspective. Focusing on the state's efforts to establish centralized courts in place of local justice systems, we consider the strategies that a supplier of dispute resolving services uses to attract disputes for resolution. We argue that state actors often attempt to “sell” centralized courts to potential litigants by insisting that the state's services are more efficient and fair than local courts operating outside direct state control. Moreover, we argue that state actors also invest significant energy in claiming that the local courts are incomprehensible. Thus, in its efforts to introduce and advance centralized courts, the state argues not only that it offers the best version of what the citizenry wants, but also that it is impossible to conceive that people would want something other than what the state offers. We illustrate our argument and explain its significance by examining judicial reform in New York, where there has been a decades-long effort to displace local justice systems.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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