Courts have long struggled to bridge the access-to-justice gap associated with in-person hearings, which makes the recent adoption of online legal proceedings potentially beneficial. Online proceedings hold promise for better access: they occur remotely, can proceed asynchronously, and often rely solely on written communication. Yet these very qualities may also undermine some of the well-established elements of procedural-justice perceptions, a primary predictor of how people view the legal system's legitimacy. This paper examines the implications of shifting legal proceedings online for both procedural-justice and access-to-justice perceptions. It also investigates the relationship of both types of perceptions with system legitimacy, as well as the relative weight these predictors carry across litigant income levels. Drawing on online traffic court cases, we find that perceptions of procedural justice and access to justice are each separately associated with a litigant's appraisal of system legitimacy, but among lower-income parties, access to justice is a stronger predictor, while procedural justice dominates among higher-income parties. These findings highlight the need to incorporate access-to-justice perceptions into existing models of legal legitimacy.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We are grateful to Tom Tyler and participants of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Legal Studies at the University of Toronto for helpful comments and to German Marquez Alcala for excellent research assistance. This research was supported by the Israeli Science Foundation, Grant No. 492/17. Disclosure: Prescott founded Court Innovations Inc., which developed Matterhorn, an ODR platform that operates in many states. Prescott no longer has an equity interest in Court Innovations or its parent company, but he may benefit from a licensing arrangement the companies have with the University of Michigan.
© 2023 The Authors. Law & Society Review published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Law and Society Association.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science