Community, context, and the emergence and shape of community courts

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ABSTRACT This research examines what contextual elements shape a community court. In the past several decades, the court system has lost trust with the American public. Citizens thought the courts

ABSTRACT This research examines what contextual elements shape a community court. In the past several decades, the court system has lost trust with the American public. Citizens thought the courts were too complex, expensive, didn't address the issues of crime, and were out of touch with their communities. A movement called community justice began to grow in the 1990s. As part of this movement the concept of problem solving courts grew. Community focused courts were part of this. Community courts are unique in that the courts reach out to the community to help solve problems identified by citizens, businesses, and others in that area. Various stakeholders are involved in the planning, implementation, and operation of these courts, working together to address issues that arise from those who commit a crime and come before the court. Four community courts were examined using the case study method, examining the literature and conducting interviews, and a model was developed based on these courts. Two additional courts were examined, having been established after judges from their respective communities had attended a national seminar on community focused courts. These two courts were then compared to the model. Based on the model, areas most likely to develop a community court were identified. Additionally, the model can be utilized to indicate how these courts can be successful or fail. Other issues that were examined were how community courts differ from traditional courts and how this could impact judicial impartiality and independence, and the traditional adversary system.