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ASU justice studies students examine fairness of Tempe courts

Gavel laying on a book with justice scales in the background.

Photo courtesy iStocke/Getty Images

May 07, 2024

A courtroom can be an intimidating place, but a group of Arizona State University students want citizens to know it's there to serve them.

As part of a course taught by Associate Teaching Professor Gregory Broberg, five ASU justice studies students recently conducted a survey in the Tempe Municipal Court system to measure fairness and accessibility for courtroom users.

“This research is critical because the courts need to hear customer feedback to develop a better understanding of how interactions should go in the courtroom,” student Luke Ehrman said.

The results of the survey indicated that a majority of courtroom users were satisfied with their experience.

“I am pleased that the survey results, in general, are quite positive — this shows we are doing things right,” said Presiding Judge Kevin Kane. “There is always room for improvement, so the results will be shared with our court staff to measure the Tempe Municipal Court’s effectiveness in serving the public to meet our mission of providing ‘fair and impartial administration of justice (and) public trust and confidence in the court system.’”

Survey findings included:

  • Eighty-three percent of participants agreed that it was easy to find the court, and 85% reported they felt safe in the court environment.
  • Seventy-seven percent of participants felt that court staff paid adequate attention to their needs, and 83% felt they were respected while in court.
  • Seventy-two percent of participants thought that their case was handled fairly, and 58% indicated that they felt they were able to tell “their story.”

To prepare for the four-day survey period, students studied survey research efforts and common errors, as well as effective ways to conduct a survey. They then worked together to compile the survey in a way that would most accurately and ethically collect feedback. 

The survey respondents were randomly selected and surveys were completed upon a voluntary commitment. The survey took approximately five to seven minutes to complete, and 48 individuals participated in the survey. 

The students found the experience extremely beneficial because they were able to make a real-world impact with their research. 

“In the end, the survey is meant to give a voice to those who participate in these trials," Ehrman said.

Students were also appreciative to be able to add another skill to their toolbox. 

"Gaining experience in research is such an important skill to have under my belt," student Sam Achtzehn said, "and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have worked with an amazing team of fellow students in order to make a difference and help serve justice to our community.”

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