This new guide, the brainchild of Wisconsin Court of Appeals Staff Attorney Christina Plum, includes a toolkit that addresses facilitating conversations about the public’s perceptions of the courts. On May 29, 2013, in a post titled Justice May Be In The Eye Of The Beholder, But Can We Talk About It?, the American Bar Association blog, Around the Bar, reported on this new guide and the benefits of facilitating these conversations through events:
Research shows many factors affect the perceptions of court users and the public, and those perceptions are crucial to understanding, as well as having confidence in, the system of justice. Individuals are less likely to access a system they do not trust, and impressions of bias are hard to overcome. Conversations about court perceptions can help local court stakeholders understand the barriers to justice.
The toolkit addresses why events should occur, and it looks at the advantages of different event formats (town halls, panels with experts, court personnel and users, etc.). The toolkit also suggests topics for events:
Suggested topics include procedural justice (the extent to which court users perceive the judicial procedure was fair); the user’s experience from beginning to end; the perceived effects of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, age and sexual orientation on the administration of justice; and the local impact of public outreach (whether judges and lawyers participating in public education programs improves understanding of the legal system).
Hats off to Ms. Plum and all of the courts that take her advice and hold these events. LPR is hopeful that in the course of these perception events, the court personnel listen to the public’s comments and perceptions with humility and introspection. Misperceptions should be corrected, but correct perceptions should be acted upon.