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Awareness on Procedural Fairness: Integral Part of the Social Justice System

Courtroom Observation Report

Introduction

There are two main sources of law in Australia, case law or common law, based on the decisions of judges in the superior courts, and legislation, the law made by Parliament. Because of the Federal system of Government in Australia, we have:

  1. Court   decisions   and   legislation   made   by   Federal   Courts   and   Federal Parliament, and
  2. Court decisions and legislation made by State Courts and State Parliaments.

Judges  are  responsible  for  making  decisions  in  court  are  critical  to  the  system achieving procedural fairness and in turn engendering community trust in authorities Instrumental  in  the  process  is  the  conduct  of  the  Judge.  Body language and behavioural aspects such as voice, neutrality, and respectful treatment are central to how the court system is perceived.

Judges must be aware and pay attention to creating fair outcomes, they should also tailor their actions, language, and responses to the  public’s  expectations  of procedural fairness. By doing so, these judges will establish themselves as legitimate authorities; substantial research suggests that increased compliance with court orders and decreased recidivism by criminal offenders will result. Procedural fairness also will lessen the difference in how minority populations perceive and react to the courts.

Aims of the observation

This court observation report aims to help you to understand the courts process and how the major parties conduct themselves in court.

Task

You are to visit the Downing Centre Court complex in Liverpool Street Sydney and observe a court case. You should then complete the attached form and hand in to your lecturer.

Court Visited:

Judge Name:
Court Location:
Date(s) of observation:
Type(s) of proceedings observed:


Was the judge aware of this observation? Yes



No



Unknown

Neutrality



People bring their disputes to the court because they view judges as neutral, principled decision makers who make decisions based upon rules and not personal opinions, and who apply legal rules consistently across people and over cases.

Tom Tyler, “Procedural Justice and the Courts,” Court Review Consider, for example, whether the judge:

§ displayed judicial fairness and impartiality toward all parties;

§ acted in the interests of the parties without regard to personal prejudices;

§ listened carefully and impartially;

§ applied rules consistently across people and over cases;

§ maintained a neutral demeanor or expression while in court;

§ was open, clear, and transparent about how the rules of law were applied and how decisions were being made;

§ consistently treated participants equally and displayed behavior appropriate for the situation;

§ was unhurried, patient and careful.

  1. How would you describe this judge’s ability to be neutral, principled and consistent?

A kindhearted 81-year-old judge in Providence whose compassion for his defendants' circumstances has amassed him. During the emotional hearing for Andrea Rogers, who explained her son had been brutally murdered, said she had let her parking tickets fall by the wayside as she was completely overcome with grief. Judge Caprio dismissed her tickets. He works out payment plans for people who are struggling. Occasionally he loses patience, especially when he thinks the person is trying to give him 'a snow job. coming down hard without regard for personal circumstances.

'I think I should take into consideration whether somebody is sick and whether their mother died and whether they have kids who are starving,' he said. 'I don't wear a badge under my robe. I wear a heart under my robe.' So I think frank caprio is very neutral, principled and consistent and he knows what he is doing.

Another difficult case the judge handled with full compassion was that of Jose Barrientos, 40, who appeared before the judge on a $300 parking ticket. At the time he was recovering from surgery for complications from brain cancer. He appeared in court wearing a protective helmet because a section of his skull had been removed for surgery.   

He argued with a parking attendant and was told he wouldn't get a ticket and yet a ticket arrived in the mail.

While the judge listened attentively to Jose's difficult story, he decided to dismiss the ticket. 

Respect

Respect includes treating people well, that is, with courtesy and politeness, and showing respect for people’s rights.

Providing people with information about what to do, where to go, and when to appear, all demonstrate respect for both those people and their right to have their problems handled fairly by the courts.

Tom Tyler, “Procedural Justice and the Courts,” Court Review

Consider, for example, whether the judge:

§ provided participants with specific information about what to do, where to go, and when to appear;

§ treated everyone with courtesy, dignity, and respect;

§ maintained appropriate courtroom tone & atmosphere;

§ demonstrated appropriate consideration for the rights of all persons in the court;

§ demonstrated an intention to do what is right for everyone involved;

§ helped interested parties understand decisions and what parties must do as a result;

§ used clear language when speaking to jurors, litigants, witnesses, and attorneys;

§ demonstrated respect for people’s time and acknowledged their patience as needed;

§ demonstrated interest in the needs, problems, and concerns of participants;

§ seemed prepared for the proceedings;

§ demonstrated appropriate body language (e.g., eye contact, facial expressions, posture, attire);

§ demonstrated respectful voice quality (e.g., pitch, volume, tone);

§ clearly articulated awareness of the practical impact on the parties of the judge’s rulings, including the effect of delay and increased litigation expense;

§ clearly explained the reasons for his/her decisions when appropriate.

  1. How would you describe this judge’s respect for people and their rights?


Voice

People want to have the opportunity to tell their side of the story in their own words before decisions are made about how to handle the dispute or problem. Having an opportunity to voice their perspective has a positive effect upon people’s experience with the legal system irrespective of their outcome, as long as they feel that the authority sincerely considered their arguments before making their decisions.

Tom Tyler, “Procedural Justice and the Courts,” Court Review

Consider, for example, whether the judge:

§ allowed participants to voice their perspectives/arguments;

§ demonstrated to the parties that their story or perspective had been heard;

§ behaved in a manner that showed the judge had fully considered the case as presented through witnesses, arguments, and documents before the court;

§ attended, where appropriate, to the participants’ comprehension of the proceedings.

  1. How would you describe this judge’s skill at providing the participants a voice in the proceedings?

4. If you were to appear before this judge as a litigant, would you have confidence that this judge would treat you fairly? Why or why not?

Answer

Executive summary

Neutral decision-making is one of the primary considerations for judges in order to make effective and universally accredited adjudication. On the other hand, application of the aspects of humanity in a case can be considered as another major consideration for a case. In cases of Andrea Rogers and Jose Barrientos, Frank Caprio maintained proper ground of humanity by showing respect to appellant. Moreover, in both of the cases Judge Frank Caprio showed the skillfulness. In both of the cases Judge showed dignity to the aspects of humanity and had made decision on the ground of humanity. From these aspects, it can be stated that judge made adjudication by maintaining fairness. 

Introduction

Procedural fairness in a rational sense is observed to be a specific name in the aspect of broadest view of systematic natural justice. In this context, Australian constitutional law has a preview of procedural fairness intrigued with some major elements namely neutrality, voice, respectful treatment along with engendering trust amongst public authorities. Rationally, it can be stated that administrative decisions being outlined in many cases are observed to be intrigued with breaching of rules of the natural justice system that occurred due to inefficient decision-making system. In this relation, following report is eliciting needs of judges’ awareness with respect different perceptions of procedural fairness within the social justice system of Australia. 

Question 1

The Municipal Court judges that namely Frank Caprio is been able to win hearts of billions of people due to his controlled engagement into the problems of individual. This judge can be especially recognized for his empathy to defendants. The distressed people are virtually served with positive responses from this judge that has eventually helped the poor souls to get relief from their individual problems (cbsnews.com, 2017). Apart from that, Caprio J has observed to be consistently treating the involved participants with equal viewpoint, which is further allowing this judge to display behavior appropriateness with respect to individual situations. Careful listening as well as impartial treatment to individuals is arguing in favor of his judgment (ballawyers.com.au, 2017). This attitude is further helping this judge to be appropriate with relevance to procedural fairness within the social justice system of Australia. 

Judge Frank Caprio, as evident, is extremely sympathetic for the defendants in particular cases. Caprio J has an apprehension about people’s obligation about Australian federal government, which is further responsible for this overwhelming empathic attitude. According to this apprehension, people have lowering faith on social justice system being employed by the government and thus, are accustomed more with institutions that are coming down heavily regardless of personal circumstances (Rottman, D., & Tyler, 2014). The evidence of his compassionate behavior towards distressed people can be evidenced from working out payment plans for the struggling people. Tenderhearted approach of Frank Caprio is preserved with transparent and clear application Australian laws that, in turn, are helping for decision-making process. 

An instance can be provided as where woman whose was disturbed with stabbing death of her son was fined $400 for not having parking tickets. The kind-hearted judge dismissed the case after dismissing the tickets (law.com, 2017). In this sense, it can be stated without ambiguity that Frank Caprio is much neutral as well as consistent and principled with respect to social justice system of Australia. This, in turn, is helping him to be obliged with constitutional legal legislations such as Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth) of this country that is further purposive for holding the ground of procedural fairness of the social justice system (fedcourt.gov.au, 2015).            

Question 2

According to the case study it can be stated that decision of Frank Caprio was based on the ground of basic humanity which are mentioned Article 10 of Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Legislation, 2018). From the mentioned regulation of this article it can be stated that all people arrived in the court needs to be treated on the ground on basic humanity. Especially for the case Jose Barrientos, Frank Caprio as judge of federal court showed proper respect to the plaintiff in this case of the Jose Barrientos. The ground of health needs to be considered in case of making any kind of adjudication according to Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 (Ahpra, 2018). Hence, consideration of this regulation in this ground was suitable and exact. 

On the other hand, Frank Caprio allowed Andrea Rogers to show her ground properly and this can be considered another example of showing respect to the appellant. Moreover, in both of the cases, the appellant was victimized by parking tickets and in these cases; the decision of Judges was on the ground of humanity (cbsnews.com, 2017). Frank Caprio had dismissed parking tickets in both cases by showing respect to emotional factors of appellant related to these cases.      

Question 3

Voice with respect to legal proceedings is found to have an immense impact on the decision-making system being deployed by a country or community. In this sense, the following case example can be positively integrated with this specific requirement of respondent and defendant’s voice acknowledgement by the judges (Tyler & Jackson, 2014). This judge Frank Caprio for allowing participants with raised argumentative voice is showing extreme skillfulness. An instance can be provided where Judy Baros, a disabled woman had been ticketed for parking her vehicle in the no-parking zone (cbsnews.com, 2017). However, when she approached to Caprio J, she had a feeling that the judge listened properly to the problem of victim. Immediately the judge dismissed the ticket because Baros was holding a disability placard. 

Another kind-hearted approach followed by voice acknowledgement of the defendant can be seen in the case of Andrea Rogers, a sufferer from stabbing death of her son. She had given sufficient scopes for explaining her struggles inside the courtroom who had also been accused with parking penalties. Judge Caprio listened attentively her struggling with life and immediately dismissed the penalties after consoling her properly (ballawyers.com.au, 2017). This is further exemplifying that how judges has to be skillful in demonstrating arguments, witness and documents before legal prosecution system that would be further suitable for attending comprehension of participants with respect to legal proceedings.     

Question 4

Procedural fairness has to be equipped with a positive legal outcome with which trustworthiness of the judgmental process is integral. In this sense, it can be rationalized from the case examples involved with Judy Baros or Andrea Rogers that the victims with any kind of difficulties can approach Judge Frank Caprio indefinitely. The case examples are providing a fact that defendants have gained positive responses from this judge. The victims are being able to draw the kind attention of the judge and sympathetic behavior of the judge has entertained this purpose of the victims. In these cases, Caprio J had shown sufficient judicial fairness, which is further favoring impartiality being shown to all parties approached to this judge. 

Personal prejudices had set apart by this judge at the time of hearing sufferings of victims. This has helped for maintaining a neutral demeanor in court, which is proved favorable for applying rules comprehensively over cases and across people. From these instances, it can be stated that people can approach Caprio with much confidence since he has treated everyone with dignity, respect and courtesy. Frank Caprio is forwarding appropriate consideration in each case example for endeavoring rights of individuals.    

Conclusion

From the above study, it can be concluded that procedural fairness is integral part of the social justice system. Indeed, some definite aspects have to be considered by the judges for having a legitimate outcome on the output of social justice system. These aspects are acknowledgement of respect, voice and neutrality for individual sufferers or victims. Rationally speaking, maintaining and focusing on these individual aspects can raise the level of consideration amongst people regarding acceptance of a judge or a judgment. This fact can be virtually proved by exemplifying case examples being handled by Frank Caprio, a judge of Australian Municipal Court.

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