Research on Power Distance in Courtroom As a Basis for Innovation in Courts – Preliminary Findings from Qualitative Research

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Michał DUDEK, Department of Sociology of Law, Faculty of Law and Administration, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland
Mateusz STĘPIEŃ, Department of Sociology of Law, Faculty of Law and Administration, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland
Power distance (PD) in courtroom, more specifically, between judge and lay participant-defendant during hearings has not been comprehensively and holistically conceptualized, nor empirically researched. This paper aims at fulfilling this gap by preliminarily discussing findings from observation and attempt at measurement of actual PD in courts based in Krakow (Poland), started in autumn 2017. For the sake of this project, PD is defined as a pattern of realization of power relations, that can maintain or support the disproportion between those who are subjected to power and those who have the power (large PD) or vice versa – minimizes this difference (small PD). This concept is confronted with the relations between judge and lay participant-defendant during hearings, which leads to enumeration of variables constituting the discussed phenomenon, i.a.: spatio-architectural order; courtroom rituals; attire of judge and lay participant-defendant; eye contact between the judge and particular lay participant-defendant and facial expressions; communication accommodation/non-accommodation of judge towards lay participant-defendant and vice versa; or judge’s critical remarks about lay participant’s-defendant’s behavior and her/his reaction. With the autumn 2017 a series of observations in Krakow courts began aiming at measurement of PD between judge and lay participant-defendant and assessment of the hypothetical relation between PD and lay participant’s-defendant’s satisfaction from hearings. This research generates a number of suggestions for innovations with respect to judges’ behavior during hearings. Should PD be large or small and in what exact variable, in order to reach higher lay participant’s-defendant’s satisfaction levels, which in turn can cause increase in social trust in judiciary, or other positive consequences? What exactly should be changed, how and under what conditions implementation of given innovation is plausible? On the basis of conducted research, paper will discuss in detail the possible answers to these questions, which constitute a hypothetical innovation scenarios for courts and judges.