Hamm, J. A., PytlikZillig, L. M., Herian, M. N., Bornstein, B. H., Tomkins, A. J. & Hoffman, L. (2013). Deconstructing confidence in state courts. Journal of Trust Research, 3, 11-31.

Abstract-Although researchers have consistently demonstrated the importance of confidence in public institutions like the courts, relatively little attention has been paid to understanding what confidence itself really is. This article presents data from two samples of community members, thereby building on and extending a preliminary investigation that sought to understand constructs related to confidence in state courts with student samples. Structural equation modelling results provide support for the dimensionality of the measures and indicate that dispositional trust has little to no independent effect on confidence. However, tendency to trust in governmental institutions, cynicism toward the law and felt obligation to obey the law are important predictive constructs. The current results are important both for researchers seeking to understand confidence in the courts and the judges and administrators who would seek to increase it.

Hamm, J. A., Bornstein, B. H., & Perkins, J. (2013). Jury nullification: The myth revisited. In D. Fung (Ed.), Psychology of Policy-Making (pp. 49-71). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Abstract-Jury nullification, which refers to the jury’s intentional disregard of the law as presented in arriving at its verdict, is an important policy concern for the legal system. Despite the well-settled law regarding the issue, the legal field is entrenched in a decades old debate regarding its merits and problems, with proponents arguing that courts should explicitly instruct jurors as to this right, and opponents arguing that explicitly avowing nullification “risks the ultimate logic of anarchy.” As in many other policy situations, however, psychology has much that it can say about this issue – most importantly regarding under what circumstances, and even if, nullification occurs. Unfortunately, most research to date has focused on the somewhat peripheral question of the influence of jury nullification instructions on verdict and not jury nullification itself. The current chapter begins by outlining the relevant case law before turning to the psychological research that has addressed nullification. In so doing, this article identifies the principal shortcoming of this literature, namely, the use of verdicts as a primary dependent variable. The chapter then reports a study which proposes and uses a paradigm for measuring actual nullification verdicts in order to determine whether mock jurors completing a jury nullification task, which varied the presence or absence of instructions on the right to nullify, actually return verdicts which could reasonably be viewed as nullification. The current research is important for both academics and policy makers. For academics, the research presents a paradigm for evaluating jury nullification. For policy makers, the findings underscore the supposition that nullification may in fact be a relatively low base-rate event. Contrary to the concerns of its critics, jury nullification seems to be neither errant nor particularly more likely in the presence of so called nullification instructions.


Bornstein, B. H., Tomkins, A. J., Neeley, E. M., Herian, M. N., & Hamm, J. A. (2013). Reducing courts' failure-to-appear rate by written reminders. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 19, 70-80. doi: 10.1037/a0026293

Abstract-This article examines the effectiveness of using different kinds of written reminders to reduce misdemeanor defendants’ failure-to-appear (FTA) rates. A subset of defendants was surveyed after their scheduled court date to assess their perceptions of procedural justice and trust and confidence in the courts. Reminders reduced FTA overall, and more substantive reminders (e.g., with information on the negative consequences of FTA) were more effective than a simple reminder. FTA varied depending on several offense and offender characteristics, such as geographic location (urban vs. rural), type of offense, and number of offenses. The reminders were somewhat more effective for Whites and Hispanics than for Blacks. Defendants with higher institutional confidence and those who felt they had been treated more fairly by the criminal justice system were more likely to appear, though the effectiveness of the reminder was greatest among misdemeanants with low levels of trust in the courts. The implications for public policy and pretrial services are discussed.

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Data Archival Website


Hamm, J. A., PytlikZillig, L. H., Tomkins, A. J., Herian, M. H., Bornstein, B. H., & Neeley, E. M. (2011).  Exploring separable components of institutional confidence. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 29, 95-115. doi: 10.1002/bsl.965

Abstract-Despite its contemporary and theoretical importance in numerous social scientific disciplines, institutional confidence research is limited by a lack of consensus regarding the distinctions and relationships among related constructs (e.g., trust, confidence, legitimacy, distrust, etc.). This study examined four confidence-related constructs that have been used in studies of trust/confidence in the courts: dispositional trust, trust in institutions, obligation to obey the law, and cynicism. First, the separability of the four constructs was examined by exploratory factor analyses. Relationships among the constructs were also assessed. Next, multiple regression analyses were used to explore each construct’s independent contribution to confidence in the courts. Finally, a second study replicated the first study and also examined the stability of the institutional confidence constructs over time. Results supported the hypothesized separability of, and correlations among, the four confidence-related constructs. The extent to which the constructs independently explained the observed variance in confidence in the courts differed as a function of the specific operationalization of confidence in the courts and the individual predictor measures. Implications for measuring institutional confidence and future research directions are discussed.

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Bornstein, B. H. & Dietrich, H. (2007). Fair procedures, yes. But we dare not lose sight of fair outcomes, Court Review, 44, 72-77.

Abstract-Burke and Leben’s White Paper on procedural justice and what judges can do to enhance it in the courtroom is an important work for several reasons, two of which especially stand out. First, their paper illustrates how effectively laboratory-based social-science research (often referred to as basic research) and more naturalistic studies performed in realworld contexts (often referred to as applied research) can be combined in addressing public policy matters. Second, it contains practical, feasible, and specific recommendations for improving courtroom practice based on that research. We believe that much goodwill come from Burke and Leben’s calling judges’ attention to issues of procedural fairness. The purpose of this commentary is not to dispute their claims regarding procedural justice, but rather to discuss the related concept of distributive justice and its implications for the courts.

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Bornstein, B. H., Greene, E., & Dietrich, H. (2007). Granny (don't) get your gun: Competency issues in gun ownership by the elderly. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 25, 405-423.

Abstract-This article explores the possible risks associated with gun ownership by older adults. We summarize existing regulations on who may own firearms, especially with respect to age. We then present data on older gun owners and violence committed by older adults in general, followed by a discussion of gun violence perpetrated by gun owners whose functional and cognitive abilities have declined, perhaps as a result of dementia. For comparison purposes, we review regulations on driving among older adults, drawing parallels to gun ownership. The paper concludes with recommendations for ensuring the safety of older gun owners and others, balanced against citizens’ right to bear arms, and with some directions for research.

PDF at UNL Digital Commons