From Adversarial Legalism to Collaborative Problem-Solving: A Pragmatic Turn in American Criminal Justice
U.C. Berkeley School of Law
April 2, 2010
Western Political Science Association 2010 Annual Meeting Paper
Adversarial legalism ("AL"), as Professor Robert Kagan argues, is the American way of law. It is caused by a mismatch between sweeping political demands and a fragmented government system, and it is entrenched by a legal culture that makes vigorous use of existing litigation mechanisms. This paper considers a recent phenomenon among public interest lawyers - a cultural shift from liberal legalism to legal pragmatism - and implications for AL. The author describes one case of legal pragmatism in action, in which state and non-state actors have collaborated to pioneer a problem-solving approach to “low-level” crime. This case, taken as an instance of a broader movement in U.S. criminal justice, illustrates how enterprising groups of legal professionals can catalyze structural changes that chip away at AL’s foundations.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 33
Keywords: adversarial legalism, collaborative justice, criminal justice, liberal legalism, legal pragmatism, problem solving courts, red hook
JEL Classification: D7, K4
Date posted: March 29, 2010 ; Last revised: April 2, 2010
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