Court-Audience Relationships in the 21st Century
47 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2016
Date Written: April 2, 2016
Courts, especially supreme and constitutional courts, need social legitimacy to successfully fulfill their roles. This article argues that courts are not only aware of this need but also can, and do in practice, actively manage their relationships with their audiences in an attempt to increase this legitimacy. The article proposes a new framework for understanding these court-audience relationships. Using insights from organizational theory, the article proposes a broad definition of courts’ audiences. It also argues that court-audience relationships should be analyzed using the concepts of “intended image” and “organizational image.”
Based on the proposed framework, the article identifies a wide variety of methods that courts use to manage these relationships and to convince their different audiences to support them. It focuses in particular on one type of methods courts use – methods that are external to their official roles (e.g., movies and books, museums, gift shops, websites, and advertisements). Many of these methods are similar to techniques used by public relations specialists to promote other organizations. These methods, the article argues, which until now have not been accorded much scholarly investigation, are pivotal for courts’ ability to gain the support of their audiences. The article also discusses the practical concerns that arise from courts’ use of these methods, situations in which using them may decrease courts’ legitimacy. Finally, the article addresses normative concerns that result from courts’ turn to public relations methods for managing their relationships with their audiences and the way this turn may influence their social role.
Keywords: courts, supreme courts, social legitimacy, comparative constitutional law, organizational image, intended image
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