What do lay people know about justice? An empirical enquiry

Irvine, Charlie (2020) What do lay people know about justice? An empirical enquiry. International Journal of Law in Context, 16 (2). pp. 146-164. ISSN 1744-5523 (https://doi.org/10.1017/S1744552320000117)

[thumbnail of Irvine-IJLC-2020-What-do-lay-people-know-about-justice]
Text. Filename: Irvine_IJLC_2020_What_do_lay_people_know_about_justice.pdf
Accepted Author Manuscript

Download (549kB)| Preview


When mediation places decision-making power in the hands of lay disputants it raises troubling issues. Can justice be delivered without judicial assistance? What is the effect on the legal system? And how should outcomes thus achieved be regarded? Critics have tended to answer negatively, pointing to a range of harms including individual oppression and the vanishing trial. Such views, focusing too narrowly on conformity to legal norms, overlook ordinary people's capacity for justice reasoning. A recent Scottish pilot study of small-claims mediation parties illustrates the richness and complexity of their thinking around whether, and for how much, to settle. This suggests that mediation settlements, rather than representing second-class justice, may enhance the legitimacy of the legal system. Implications for theories of justice are considered.