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Great expectations? Comparing litigants' attitudes before and after using legal procedures.
Law and Human Behavior  (IF3.795),  Pub Date : 2020-06-01, DOI: 10.1037/lhb0000370
Donna Shestowsky

OBJECTIVE To examine whether litigants' initial attraction to legal procedures (e.g., mediation, hearings, jury trials) predicted their postexperience evaluations of the procedures and whether attendance moderated this relationship. HYPOTHESIS Litigants' initial attraction to the legal procedure that later resolved their case would better predict postexperience satisfaction and fairness for litigants who adjudicated versus settled. I also explored whether the predicted relationship would vary as a function of litigants' attending the procedure and when case duration, lawyer involvement, and litigants' repeat player status were included in the models. METHOD Four hundred-twelve state court litigants rated their attraction to different legal procedures at the start of their cases and 335 (81.3% retention) rated their satisfaction with, and fairness of, the procedure that ultimately resolved their case. RESULTS Initial attraction to and ex post evaluations of legal procedures were more strongly related among litigants who adjudicated versus settled, but this association did not hold when the covariates were included. Instead, lawyer involvement and shorter duration were associated with increased ex post satisfaction and fairness. For litigants who personally attended their procedure, initial attraction was unrelated to later evaluations of fairness and those who settled evaluated their procedure as fairer compared to those who adjudicated. By contrast, for litigants who did not attend, initial attraction was positively related to later fairness evaluations and there was no fairness difference between settlement and adjudication. The same attendance patterns emerged irrespective of whether the covariates were included. CONCLUSIONS Lawyer involvement and shorter case duration better predicted litigants' evaluations of legal procedures than their initial attraction to procedures. Attendance was associated with increased fairness evaluations for settlement relative to adjudication and initial attraction was positively related to fairness only when litigants did not attend their procedure. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).