Procedural justice and the law

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12 Citations (Scopus)


This article considers procedural justice in the law, with specific reference to the adjudicative context of governmental officials applying legal standards to particular cases. We critically survey the three main accounts of procedural justice in the literature: utilitarian, outcome‐based, and dignitarian. Utilitarian and outcome‐based theories share the instrumental view that the only purpose of procedures is to lead to accurate legal outcomes. However, the former are willing to trade off the benefits of accuracy against its costs, whereas the latter hold that procedural rights are necessary to guard against the injustice caused when individuals' legal rights are mistakenly denied. Dignitarian theories maintain that process matters apart from outcomes, because procedures should show respect for individuals' dignity in the Kantian sense of rational agency. We present a new perspective, drawing on relational theory. Relational theory holds that we are social creatures whose self‐identities and sense of self‐respect are bound up with the quality of our relationships with other individuals, groups, and institutions. Our relational account is informed by empirical research in social psychology which has found that people's evaluation of procedures is substantially influenced by relational concerns.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12548
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophy Compass
Issue number12
Early online date31 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


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