Date of this Version
Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association (2004) 40(3-4): 26-32
Attitudes toward the courts can affect the way individuals perceive their role in the justice system: their willingness to comply with laws, report crimes, file legal suits, serve as jurors, and so on. In short, a positive public perception of the courts is “critical to the maintenance and operation of the judicial system.” Given the import of these perceptions, a substantial body of research has examined the factors that explain differing levels of support for the court system. Although many of these studies examine national samples or examine attitudes toward the U.S. Supreme Court, it is beyond the scope of those findings to measure attitudes toward state and local courts. Prior research shows that there is often an aura of remoteness concerning the U.S. Supreme Court, whereas state and local courts are not only more visible, but have a direct effect on citizens’ everyday lives. This is consistent with research by Tom Tyler, who found that personal experiences with legal authorities affect an individual’s evaluations of those entities. Additionally, state-level data can improve on nationally aggregated data, which can mask important differences and issues between states.