American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 54, Issue 4 (2018)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


Courts have an important place in American life. While many would think first of the police as the institution most directly responsible for maintaining the law, the courts are an integral part of ensuring social order. Indeed, as illustrated by practices regarding warrants and cases challenging police action, much of the authority typically attributed to the police is, to some degree, controlled by the courts.

Importantly, however, as is often the case with institutions of government in the United States, this considerable authority comes with relatively limited power: The judiciary controls “neither the purse nor the sword,” leaving it heavily reliant upon other institutions and upon the public in general.1 Thus, an extreme argument can be made that the courts need the positive perceptions of the majority of the public to function at all,2 but others have pointed to these perceptions as important simply because effective courts should be perceived well by the public they serve.3 In either case, there is little question that public perceptions of the courts matter and in recognition of this, considerable effort has been expended by to improve and protect them.4