AJA Fairness Interviews

American Judges Association:  Procedural-Fairness Interviews

The American Judges Association (AJA) conducted interviews about procedural fairness with nine national leaders on issues involving judges and the courts. The interviews, done by Kansas Court of Appeals Judge and past AJA president Steve Leben, cover the elements of procedural fairness for courts and judges, how judges can improve fairness skills, and how the public reacts to courts and judges. The interviews were done in August 2014; job titles are shown as of the date of the interviews.

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Professor Tom Tyler (15:48):

Yale Law School Professor Tom Tyler is the leading scholar in the United States on procedural justice in both law enforcement and court contexts. In this interview, he provides an overview of all the basic concepts along with practical advice for judges to use in the courtroom. He also explains how practicing procedural fairness leads to greater compliance with court orders and respect for the legal system.

Joanne Slotnik (9:50):

Joanne Slotnik served as director of Utah’s Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission from its inception in 2008 until 2016. In this interview, she explains how that commission used procedural-fairness principles as the basis for citizen observers to help evaluate the work of Utah’s state trial judges. She also discusses common problems the observers saw and ways judges might improve their on-the-bench performance.

Emily Gold LaGratta (12:14):

Emily Gold LaGratta is the Deputy Director of Training and Technical Assistance at the Center for Court Innovation (CCI). She works nationally helping to train courts and judges about procedural-fairness principles. She discusses CCI projects designed to help implement these principles in specific courts, as well as specific suggestions individual judges can implement in their daily work and tools for measuring perceptions of procedural fairness.

Terry Maroney (18:14):

Vanderbilt Law School Professor Terry Maroney has written many articles in the past few years about judges and how they deal with emotions—their own and those of others in the courtroom—while on the bench. She suggests that all judges can get better at dealing with their own emotional reactions as well as those of others. We explore some of them with her, as well as what emotions best enhance—or distract from—perceptions of fair treatment.

Dale Lefever (19:31):

Now a consultant, Dale Lefever has trained judges and doctors for decades. In both settings, he says that research shows that better relationships lead to better outcomes—in medicine, better diagnoses; in court, better compliance with legal orders. He discusses how to build better skills, including how to use videotape to evaluate one’s own performance.

Daniel Becker (12:08):

Utah State Court Administrator Daniel Becker heads up the administrative structure of a state-court system that has, for many years, regularly surveyed court users in each local judicial district to get data evaluating the procedural fairness of its courts—and then publicized the data and used it to improve court performance. He discusses how such data can be used and how it has been used in Utah. He also discusses Utah’s program for evaluating judicial performance.

Kent Wagner (9:16):

Kent Wagner serves as the Executive Director of the Colorado Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation; he previously directed education programs for Colorado state judges. He discusses the program for evaluating the performance of each judge in Colorado, including how procedural-fairness principles are central to that process, the types of comments that are commonly made in surveys about judges, and common areas judges might focus on for improvement.

Bert Brandenburg (9:24):

Bert Brandenburg was Executive Director of Justice at Stake at the time of this interview. He discussed the extensive work Justice at Stake has done on public opinion about the courts, including what people want from courts and judges. He makes specific suggestions for how judges can respond to the public’s concerns.

Carl Reynolds (5:00): 

Carl Reynolds is the Senior Legal and Policy Advisor for the Council of State Government’s Justice Center; formerly (from 2005 to 2012), he was the Texas State Court Administrator. He discusses the use of measurement tools to assess court performance in fairness as well as how best to train judges about procedural-fairness concepts.

In addition, two state supreme court chief justices provided their thoughts about procedural fairness in the courts of their states.

Then-Alaska Chief Justice Dana Fabe (4:09): 

Alaska Chief Justice Dana Fabe tells about the decision to place a poster pledging fairness at the entrance to every courthouse in Alaska. She explains that this was a low-cost way of demonstrating the court’s commitment to procedural fairness—one that helps those who visit Alaska’s courts to feel comfortable and to ask questions that let them do their business in the courts more effectively. (Chief Justice Fabe retired in June 2016.)

Utah Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant (2:40): 

Utah Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant discusses the emphasis the state courts of Utah have placed on procedural fairness along with specific steps taken by Utah courts and judges.

This project was supported by Grant No. 2010-DD-BX-K034 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance to the American Judges Association. Points of view or opinions expressed in the interviews are those of the speakers and do not represent the views of either AJA or the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.