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

Published: Nov 4, 2005

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

Version V1

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.

Church, Thomas W. Jr. Assessing Local Legal Culture:  Practitioner Norms in Four Criminal Courts, 1979. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2005-11-04.

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


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

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

personal interviews and self-enumerated questionnaires

survey data



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.

1984-05-03 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.


  • 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.

  • The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented.
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This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.