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Public Policy and Administration


Karel Kurst-Swanger


Previous studies have neglected to focus on the generalized affective satisfaction (diffuse support) to state level courts among Hispanics/Latinos. A western US county was selected for this case study to test a racial and ethnic theory of procedural justice in a region with a large Hispanic/Latino population. Differential experience theory was used as a theoretical foundation and posits that people determine their level of satisfaction with the courts based on their own actual experience with the courts. The main research question was whether Hispanics/Latinos have a different level of satisfaction with their access to, and fairness in, the court when compared to Whites. Data were gathered from 1406 people exiting the courthouse for any reason in 2007 and 2008. The exit survey data were used to test a logistic regression model to empirically investigate whether race or ethnicity is a significant predictor of court user satisfaction. Level of satisfaction was operationalized by assessing responses to questions regarding the accessibility to, and perceived fairness in, the court. Although race/ethnicity proved to be significantly linked to both measures of satisfaction in 2007 these associations were no longer observed in the 2008 data. Mean satisfaction ratings affirmed the findings of other researchers in the field that Hispanics/Latinos have a high level of satisfaction with their access to, and fairness in, the court. This is important because the legitimacy of the judicial branch is dependent upon the good will of the public. This study can directly contribute to social change by informing outreach programs designed to increase voluntary participation in state and local legal systems among members of Hispanic/Latino communities, and thus help to realize more equitable justice for all citizens.