Assessing Local Legal Culture: Practitioner Norms in Four Criminal Courts, 1979 (ICPSR 7808)

Principal Investigator(s): Church, Thomas W. Jr.


This study attempts to operationalize the concept of local legal culture by examining differences in the processing of twelve hypothetical criminal cases in four criminal courts. Questionnaires asking how these hypothetical cases should best be handled were administered to judges, district attorneys, and defense attorneys in four cities: Bronx County (New York City), New York, Detroit, Michigan, Miami, Florida, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In each city, the presiding judge, prosecutor, and head of the public defender's office were informed of the project. Questionnaires were distributed to prosecuting attorneys and public defenders by their supervisors. Judges were contacted in person or given questionnaires with a cover letter from the presiding judge. All questionnaires were completed anonymously and returned separately by respondents. The variables include number of years the respondent had been in the criminal justice system, preferred mode of disposition and of sentencing for each of the twelve cases, and the respondents' predictions of the probability of conviction in each case.

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  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.


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Study Description


Church, Thomas W., Jr. ASSESSING LOCAL LEGAL CULTURE: PRACTITIONER NORMS IN FOUR CRIMINAL COURTS, 1979. ICPSR ed. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [producer and distributor], 1997.

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This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (78-MU-AX-0023)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    attorneys, court cases, courts, courtroom proceedings, disposition (legal), judges, legal systems, sentencing

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 1979

Universe:    Judges, district attorneys, and defense attorneys in four cities in the United States.

Data Type(s):    survey data


Sample:    Systematic samples of lawyers and judges were drawn from the four cities studied.

Data Source:

personal interviews and self-enumerated questionnaires

Extent of Processing:   ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Performed recodes and/or calculated derived variables.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


Original ICPSR Release:   1984-05-03

Version History:

  • 2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.
  • 1997-02-13 SAS and SPSS data definition statements are now available for this collection.

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