Lay Participation in Legal Decision Making: Introduction to Law & Policy Special Issue
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- Jury systems; Lay participation in law; Mixed tribunals; Collaborative courts; Civil Procedure; Comparative and Foreign Law; Courts; Criminal Procedure; Litigation
United States scholarship on lay participation revolves around one predominant form of lay participation, the jury (Hans & Vidmar forthcoming 2004). However, in the legal systems of many countries, laypeople participate as decision makers in other ways. Laypersons serve as judges (Provine 1986), magistrates (Diamond 1993), and private prosecutors (Perez Gil 2003). Lay and law-trained judges may also decide cases together in mixed tribunals (Kutnjak Ivkovi6 2003; Machura 2003; Vidmar 2002). Although diverse in structure, these methods share with the jury a set of animating ideas about lay involvement in legal decision making. Many of these ideas appear to be quite compelling. But despite an extensive body of scholarship on the functioning of the jury system, there is limited scholarly work on how alternative methods of using laypersons in legal decision making operate in practice. There is even less on the political and social impact of lay participation. Whether diverse forms of lay participation promote or undermine democratic elements in law is a critically important yet unanswered question. All three articles in the special issue, and the discussant's commentary, address these important subjects, promising to further our understanding about the benefits and the limitations of lay involvement in the legal system.