The Importance of Citizen Participation in Judicial Processes

The Importance of Citizen Participation in Judicial Processes

3. Citizen participation in the court process is an important component of the American judicial system. Discuss the reasons why citizen participation in the court hearing process is important, being sure to highlight points from both the defendant and juror perspective.




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The Importance of Citizen Participation in Judicial Processes

Citizen participation in decision making in the judiciary is a common practice in many countries today. In the common law tradition, more than 40 countries apply the jury system, while some civil-law countries use other forms of citizen participation. Civil participation has been prevalent in the judicial decision-making process around the world now, as its popularity increases by the day. The citizen participation of citizens in judicial matters in the world right now is with an intensity that is higher than of other democratic participation forms (Haeberle, Kropp, Palermo, & Sommermann, 2015).

Citizen participation involves both crime prevention and participation court processes, once a crime has been committed. It includes a commitment by the citizens to stop crime by avoiding engaging or condoning criminal behavior, even when committed by others. Citizens also participate directly in the justice process when they report crime to the authorities, by offering to be a reliable participant i.e. a juror or a witness, in a court proceeding, and finally by accepting the system disposition as just or reasonable. Additionally, the voters and taxpayers participate in the criminal justice system through the process of making policies, policies that affect how the whole justice system operates. The private sector has a role to play in every stage of the whole process, from the objectives formulation, to making major decisions on where the jails and prisons will be located, to integrating the inmates into society.

Muncie (2013) asserts that the reason why citizen participation is important to the jurors is because for them to make better decisions, therefore saving on time and improving on efficiency. The jurors most often are overwhelmed with trials to listen to, and the decisions sometimes can be hard for them to make. They therefore rely on citizen participation, in this case on the form of citizens who are called to perform jury duty to help ease the workload. This in turn saves on cash that would have been used to hire more jurors. When the existing ones are not burdened with a lot of work, they are likely to take enough time on a trial, therefore ensuring that their ruling is fair, and effective. Further, involving citizens in the criminal justice processes may help secure a trust relationship between the general public and the system of criminal justice in general. This trust is very useful when it comes to crime reduction in general.

Citizen participation in criminal justice systems is so important to the defendants as well, majorly because it restores the defendant’s confidence in the judicial system (Muncie, 2013). The defendant will be confident of being given a fair hearing, because he can choose to have witnesses, who will help him/her give his side of the story. The fact that every defendant has a right to a lawyer, and can be provided with one at request, makes the judicial system a level playground to all the parties. This is because even the poorest of defendants who cannot afford to hire and retain an attorney will be represented with one during the trial, thanks to citizen participation.


Haeberle, C., Kropp, S., Palermo, F., & Sommermann, K. (2015). Citizen participation in multi-

level democracies. Leiden: Hotei Publishing.

Muncie, J. (2013). Student handbook of criminal justice and criminology. London: Cavendish.

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