The Application of Network Analysis to the Study of Trial Courts
Justice System Journal, Vol. 31, p. 144-163, 2010
10 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2009 Last revised: 2 May 2011
Date Written: May 1, 2011
In the late 1960s, scholars began studying trial courts as organizations. Since the last large wave of these studies in the 1990s, there have been reforms that purport to alter state court institutions. The literature on trial courts has not yet addressed how reforms, like specialized courts, alter trial courts as organizations. Studies of trial courts could also profit from the application of other methods for analyzing organizations. This paper explores the use of network analysis to examine the organizational linkages and structure of trial courts. After reviewing the literature on trial courts and recent court reforms, we make a case for the utility of this methodological approach. Recent computer applications of network analysis can visually map the linkages between trial court actors and the organizations that work with them. As a demonstration, we provide some of the results of our study of an umbrella state trial court located in a medium size U.S. city. We conclude by arguing that network analysis as a technique can help scholars test past assumptions about the organization of courts and explore new linkages that are proposed by the adoption of court reforms.
Keywords: networks, network analysis, trial courts, drug court, court reform, court organization
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