American Justice System

This study will be a comparative analysis of two books on the American system of justice, Virtuous Citizens, Disruptive Subjects: Order and Complaint in a New England Court, by Barbara Yngvesson, and Getting Justice and Getting Even: Legal Consciousness Among Working-Class Americans, by Sally Engle Merry. The study will describe, evaluate and compare the methods, theoretical concerns, and substantive findings advanced by Yngvesson and Merry. The study will argue that, despite some differences, the books offer far more similarities in their examination of the disillusioning and frustrating experiences of mainly working class Americans as they attempt to find justice in the American court system. Neither book paints a very pretty picture of the treatment afforded the average citizen by one of the most, if not the most, praised justice system in the entire world.

Yngvesson studies court cases in two counties in Massachusetts---Essex and Franklin. The author focuses on the central role of the court clerks who determine the original disposition of the complaints that come from the citizen. The methodology of Yngvesson includes observation of "many months of complaint hearings" and interviews with "many citizen participants in the court process" (Yngvesson, 1993, xi). Along with this extensive fieldwork, the author also took part in the Amherst Seminar on Legal Ideology and the reflections of members of that seminar on her work, and participated in collaborative research effor



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