Just Satisfaction? What Drives Public and Participant Satisfaction with Courts and Tribunals - A Review of Recent Evidence
111 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2014
Date Written: April 15, 2007
This document reports a review of recent evidence (published from 2000 onwards) on what factors may be related to public and participant (non-professional users, witnesses and jurors) satisfaction with courts and tribunals. It only includes evidence based on studies which meet particular standards of method and reporting. Most of the studies reviewed relate to England and Wales, but relevant evidence from other jurisdictions is also included.
The review reveals:
1. The evidence base is dominated by studies either wholly in the criminal sphere or which fail to disaggregate civil and criminal contexts.
2. There is a distinct scarcity of robust, well analysed data on what the general public thinks about civil and family courts and tribunals and what underlies those perceptions.
3. Similarly, there is little data on what businesses think of courts and tribunals.
4. Data on participants, outside of the criminal context in particular, also lacks depth. Consideration should be given to how the resource expended on user surveys in the courts and tribunals services is most effectively used to provide a more robust evidence base.
5. As a result of weaknesses in the evidence base, we cannot say with authority whether the public, or indeed those who have participated in civil or family cases, are generally satisfied with those courts and tribunals, and why they are satisfied (or not). Lack of such data about a key public institution is concerning.
6. The evidence that exists suggests that outcomes, and the perceived fairness of those outcomes; attitudes and contextual issues (such as attitudes to crime and the quality of the court environment and support); and, participant judgments about the fairness of court or tribunal process all have an independent relationship with (and so may ‘drive’) public and participant satisfaction with courts and tribunals. The evidence on whether demographic characteristics have an independent influence is more mixed.
7. On the whole, and whilst acknowledging the weaknesses in the evidence base highlighted above, the weight of the evidence suggests that it is participant judgments about the fairness of the process not the outcomes that participants receive which are most important in influencing the levels of their satisfaction.
8. There is a lack of evidence comparing consumer perspectives with professional evaluations of underlying systems and behaviours. An adversarial justice system may inevitably lead to some dissatisfaction, amongst some participants, as it seeks to balance competing interests. Meaningful research on ‘just’ satisfaction needs to scrutinise that balance.
Keywords: Courts, Litigants, Satisfaction, Procedural Justice
JEL Classification: K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation