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Trust and Confidence in the California Courts: Public Court Users and Judicial Branch Members Talk About the California Courts

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Abstract:

This focus group and in-depth interview study, commissioned on behalf of the Judicial Council of California, examined attitudes about the state courts among both the general public who have used the state courts and the judicial administrators and officers who serve there. We found court users had generally high levels of confidence in the state's courts and judges, but often confused the roles and responsibilities of courts with other agencies like law enforcement and prisons. When it comes to accessing the courts, the cost of hiring a qualified attorney is main barrier, and there are increasing numbers who enter the court systems without any legal representation causing significant delays in the system. The increasing diversity of the California population is presenting many challenges for the courts, and participants noted the need for more qualified interpreters. Public confidence seems to depend more on whether people perceive court procedures to be fair than on the outcome of specific cases, but many judicial branch members believe outcomes shape perceptions of fairness.