National Center for State Courts


Abstract: Who Trusts Trial Courts, To What Degree, and Why?

Trust in trial courts arguably stems from a more varied set of antecedents than is the case for other public institutions. After all, a large proportion of the American public (as much as one-half) has had direct contact with the courts, some even serving in a decision-making role. In addition, the public is exposed to a mass media rich in fictional and "reality" depictions of court operations. This is supplemented by real-time or archived video of actual courtroom proceedings on the internet. These various depictions provide the public with a more nuanced set of expectations of how courts make decisions than they have of other public institutions, perhaps including on how different racial and ethnic groups are treated. In that context, this paper looks at the relative importance of and interrelationships among court experience, media exposure, and knowledge about the courts as experienced across racial and ethnic groups.

Biographical Sketch:

David Rottman is a researcher at the National Center for State Courts. His research interests include minority group perceptions of the courts, methodologies for measuring the quality of judicial performance, the role of procedural justice in community courts, and juror and jury use of new media. In May 2013 he co-organized a Workshop on Evaluating Judges held  at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Oñati, Spain. Rottman previously worked at the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin, Ireland and taught sociology at the National University of Ireland and the University of Connecticut. He is the author of books on contemporary Ireland, social class, and community justice.

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