The Culture of Misdemeanor Courts
39 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2018
Date Written: January 16, 2018
The misdemeanor courts that preside over the majority of criminal cases in the United States represent the “front porch” of our criminal justice system. These courts vary in myriad ways, including size, structure, and method of judicial appointment. Each also has its own culture – i.e., a settled way of doing things that reflects deeper assumptions about the court’s mission and its role in the community – which can assist or impede desired policy reforms. This Article, written for a Symposium issue of the Hofstra Law Review, draws upon the insights of organizational culture theory to explore how leaders can alter the culture of misdemeanor courts. Although certain features make these courts particularly challenging institutions in which to pursue cultural change, nevertheless there are reasons to be optimistic. The Article describes the experiences of three selected misdemeanor courts where innovative judges are championing significant changes to the conventional way of doing things, which lend credence to the methodology identified in the theoretical literature on cultural change.
Keywords: misdemeanors, criminal court, judges, criminal justice reform, procedural justice, court culture, organizational culture, court innovation
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