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Trial-type ceremonies and defendant behavior

By Richard O. Lempert

Abstract

This study uses hearing transcripts to examine judge-defendant interaction in a trial-type setting. The setting is a public housing eviction hearing; judges are eviction board members and defendants are tenants facing eviction for non-payment of rent. All tenants in the sample were formally evicted, but in each case the execution of the eviction order was stayed on the condition that the tenant pay his rent. Two forms of verbal interaction are identified. The first, “moralizing” is deemed present when one or more board members directs a degrading remark toward the tenant. The second, “cooling in” is deemed present when one or more board members directs a helping remark toward the tenant and the tenant in some way indicates his receptivity. When moralizing occurs the eviction hearing contains all of Garfinkel's (1956) requisites for successful status degradation ceremonies. Consequently it was hypothesized that tenants who had been moralized would be less successful in clearing their rent debts than tenants who had not been moralized, but if successful, more likely get into rent payment trouble again. It was also hypothesized that tenants who had been “cooled in” would be more likely to clear their rent debt than tenants who had not been cooled and that, having cleared their rent debt, they would be less likely to recidivate. All predictions except the hypothesized association between cooling in and recidivism are supported by the data. Although cell sizes grow uncomfortably small, the predicted relations persist after controlling for obvious sources of spuriousness. The conclusion discusses the analogy between the housing eviction hearing and the criminal trial

Publisher: Kluwer Academic Publishers-Plenum Publishers; Plenum Publishing Corporation ; Springer Science+Business Media
Year: 1977
DOI identifier: 10.1007/BF01048594
OAI identifier: oai:deepblue.lib.umich.edu:2027.42/45306
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