Professional Emotions in Court examines the paramount role of emotions in the legal professions and in the functioning of the democratic judicial system. Based on extensive interview and observation data in Sweden, the authors highlight the silenced background emotions and the tacitly habituated emotion management in the daily work at courts and prosecution offices. Following participants ‘backstage’ – whether at the office or at lunch – in order to observe preparations for and reflections on the performance in court itself, this book sheds light on the emotionality of courtroom interactions, such as professional collaboration, negotiations, and challenges, with the analysis of micro-interactions being situated in the broader structural regime of the legal system – the emotive-cognitive judicial frame – throughout.
A demonstration of the false dichotomy between emotion and reason that lies behind the assumption of a judicial system that operates rationally and without emotion, Professional Emotions in Court reveals how this assumption shapes professionals’ perceptions and performance of their work, but hampers emotional reflexivity, and questions whether the judicial system might gain in legitimacy if the role of emotional processes were recognized and reflected upon.
Table of Contents
List of Tables and Figures
1. Why emotions in court?
Emotion and rationality
Emotion and law: the research field
Emotion, law and morality
Morality and objectivity
Empathy and emotion management
The Swedish judicial system
Education and the legal professions
Prosecutor and prosecution
Judge and the court
Defence and victim counsels
Theoretical framework and key concept
Emotion, emotion management, habituation
Social interaction, frame, and ritual
Power and status
Our findings in an international perspective
Structure of the book
2. Background emotions in legal professional life
The emotional profile of defence lawyers
A formative shame/pride moment
Pride in status and comfort with power
General intellectual dealers
Procedural justice: an increased service orientation
An issue of personality?
Mediators, translators, purifiers
Committed to justice
Independence and collegiality
3. Organisational Emotion Management
Time as organizing principle
Judges: Lamenting the loss of time
Prosecutors: Constant lack of time
Fear and organisational security work
Teflon culture: Emotion management as self-discipline
Teflon culture in courts
Teflon culture at the prosecution office
Individualised and collegial emotion management
4. The dramaturgy of court emotions
Setting the scene for the non-emotional ritual
Script and legal terminology
Front-stage performance and emotional communication
Frontstage collaboration to control emotion
The prosecutor’s perspective: Enacting backstage/front-stage
Situated adaptation to ordinary surprises
Adjusting to the judge: Situated adaptation and emotional toning
The judge’s perspective: Backstage preparation and front-stage presentation
Focus and strategic emotion management
Front-stage strategic empathy
Emotional toning: Toning down and toning up emotional expressions
5. Power and status in court
The autonomous judge: Power issues
Personalizing or depersonalizing power?
Limitations of power and low status: Negotiating demeanour
Power and status in deliberations
The independent prosecutor: Status negotiations
Prosecutors and the police
Prosecutors and the judge
Prosecutors and lay people
More distance – less personalized
Judge and prosecutor: Power and status challenges
6. Objectivity work as situated emotion management
Objectivity and impartiality
Judges: Justice must be seen to be done
Balancing emotional expressions
Aesthetic pleasure, satisfaction, and confidence in legal evaluation
Prosecutors: Partial objectivity
Balancing emotions of commitment and detachment
Aesthetic pleasure, satisfaction, and interest in legal encoding
Objectivity work as collective achievement
7. Concluding discussion
The emotive-cognitive judicial frame and the self
Refuges of the emotive-cognitive judicial frame
Background emotions in the legal system – some further reflections
Stina Bergman Blix is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Uppsala University, Sweden.
Åsa Wettergren is a Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Work Science at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
"Cogent arguments supported with fascinating data make Professional Emotions in Court a tour de force. Bergman Blix and Wettergren reveal not only that court processes are infused with emotions but show also how the actors involved – judges, prosecutors and lawyers – believe that their practices are impersonal if not rational. This is sociology at its best, changing the way we conceive institutions, knowledge and routine rituals." - Jack Barbalet, Australian Catholic University, Australia, and Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong.
"Professional Emotions in Court offers a lucid and important reconceptualization of the legal notion of objectivity. The authors place their extensive interview and observational data in a legal and sociological framework, illustrating the ways in which implicit rules and assumptions about emotion shape the behavior and the decisions of prosecutors and judges. This is a rigorous look at a fascinating subject, with implications for both common law and civil legal systems." - Susan A. Bandes, DePaul University College of Law, USA.
"[…] the book offers a substantial contribution to a growing field of studies concerning emotion and the law. With its rich data and the authors’ sociological eye for detail, the study reveals the importance of judges’ and prosecutors’ emotion management practices and will be a must-read for years to come." - Malin Åkerström, Symbolic Interaction.
"While the Swedish judge with their stone face may seem a million miles away from the American judge who sheds tears in court then hugs a defendant, much can be learned about emotions across a range of justice contexts by adopting the approach taken by Bergman Blix and Wettergren. Their analysis reveals the inner workings of background emotions for Swedish legal professionals. However, it raises somewhat more universal questions about the tensions between lay and professional emotions and frames, the relationship between background and foreground emotions, and the limits of the emotive-cognitive judicial frame. This book can and should generate a broader discussion about emotions in legal settings." - Meredith Rossner, Journal of Law and Society.