Rationalizing Justice

The Political Economy of Federal District Courts

By Wolf Heydebrand & Carroll Seron

Subjects: Sociology Of Work
Series: SUNY series in the Sociology of Work and Organizations
Paperback : 9780791402962, 308 pages, September 1990
Hardcover : 9780791402955, 308 pages, September 1990

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Table of contents







1. The Organization and Rationalization of the Judiciary

2. The Rising Demand for Court Services: A Historical View

3. The Ecological Environment of Courts: Political Economy and Demography

4. Rising Demand and Declining Resources: A Double Bind

5. The Effect of Environment and Demand on Judicial Decision-Making

6. The Organizational Structure of Courts and Judicial Decision-Making

7. The Growing Shadow of the Federal Government

8. Conclusion: From Adjudication to Administration, or Is the Third Branch Wilting?

Appendix A. The Empirical Study of Courts: A Methodological Note

Appendix B. Data Sources

Court Cases Cited





This book connects the history and organization of the federal district courts to the emergence of a new technocratic form of justice. The centerpiece of this study is the clash between adjudication — the traditional model of dispute resolution — and the introduction of modern management techniques.

From the perspective of the federal trial courts, the authors examine the tension between adjudication and administration. They show dramatic changes in the nature of judicial decision-making and the emergence of new forms of court organization. These changes signal a potential crisis of the judicial system, and Heydebrand and Seron provide insights into its nature and direction, and the immense structural forces underlying the administration of justice in America.

Wolf Heydebrand is Professor of Sociology at New York University and Senior Research Associate, Institute of Judicial Administration and Center for Policy Research. Carroll Seron is Associate Professor of Public Administration, Baruch College and former Judicial Fellow and Research Associate, Federal Judicial Center, Washington, D.C.


"This is exceptionally competent scholarship about a topic of current interest and enduring importance. The evidence is presented in a compelling manner. The topic is very significant for the sociology of law, organizations, and work. I believe that this can be a landmark study in each of these large areas of the field." — Richard H. Hall, State University of New York, Albany

"This is a significant topic. The post-industrial nature of American society in the 1980s, replete with its emphasis on professionalization and bureaucratization, has had an impact on American courts that has been insufficiently examined. The authors make a significant contribution to the discipline." — John Kenneth White, The Catholic University of America