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Can Individuals Get Justice from Large Organizations? A Research Agenda for the Study of Law in Society
Unformatted Document Text:  year-by-year the organization is reducing the overall quantity or rate of injustices that their operations cause. 1 Together, the Wisconsin Civil Litigation Project and Braithwaite’s argument point to an enormously important set of issues for students of civil justice – issues that are have not been a major focus of study by either law faculties or sociolegal scholars. This paper argues, therefore, that scholars interested in civil justice should direct more of their research toward informal organizational claims-processing, grievance, and dispute- settlement systems. That research agenda, I would suggest, should include three sets of big questions: 1. At the macro-level, is the society-wide rate of arbitrary or unjust treatment really getting worse because of the growing dominance of large organizations, public and private, in daily life? Or have regulatory programs, liability laws, market pressures, social insurance programs, and rising public expectations actually reduced the rate of arbitrary and unjust treatment? How can we tell? 2. At the organizational level, what is the quality of justice provided by intra- organizational and other ADR systems established by large organizations? What criteria should be employed in answering that question? 3. What are the determinants, both external and intra-organizational, of variation the qualities of those systems? What accounts for variation in their integrity, responsiveness, and effectiveness in facilitating, identifying and remedying just claims? What accounts for variation in how energetically organizations use claims data to analyze and reduce the incidence of injustices caused by their operations? 1 In Braithwaite’s proposal (2002: 254-55), which he attributes in part to Christine Parker (2002), large organizations should be obligated to “prepare an access-to-justice plan in relation to all the kinds of injustices its activities are likely to touch – injustices to prisoners if it is a prison, to consumers if it is a business, to creditors, to shareholders, suppliers, and so on. … The organization would have to demonstrate to independent auditors …that it had improved access to justice compared with the last reporting period. These auditors … would [seek] evidence of disputant satisfaction with the fairness of the dispute resolution they got, and evidence of the effectiveness of dispute prevention.” 3

Authors: Kagan, Robert.
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background image
year-by-year the organization is reducing the overall quantity or rate of injustices that 
their operations cause.
Together, the Wisconsin Civil Litigation Project and Braithwaite’s argument point 
to an enormously important set of issues for students of civil justice – issues that are have 
not been a major focus of study by either law faculties or sociolegal scholars.  This paper 
argues, therefore, that scholars interested in civil justice should direct more of their 
research toward informal organizational claims-processing, grievance, and dispute-
settlement systems.  That research agenda, I would suggest, should include three sets of 
big questions:
1. At the macro-level, is the society-wide rate of arbitrary or unjust treatment 
really getting worse because of the growing dominance of large 
organizations, public and private, in daily life? Or have regulatory 
programs, liability laws, market pressures, social insurance programs, and 
rising public expectations actually reduced the rate of arbitrary and unjust 
treatment? How can we tell?
2.  At the organizational level, what is the quality of justice provided by intra-
organizational and other ADR systems established by large organizations? 
What criteria should be employed in answering that question?  
3. What are the determinants, both external and intra-organizational, of variation 
the qualities of those systems?  What accounts for variation in their 
integrity, responsiveness, and effectiveness in facilitating, identifying and 
remedying just claims? What accounts for variation in how energetically 
organizations use claims data to analyze and reduce the incidence of 
injustices caused by their operations?
1
 In Braithwaite’s proposal (2002: 254-55), which he attributes in part to Christine Parker (2002), 
large organizations should be obligated to 
“prepare an access-to-justice plan in relation to all the kinds of injustices its activities are 
likely to touch – injustices to prisoners if it is a prison, to consumers if it is a business, to 
creditors, to shareholders, suppliers, and so on. … The organization would have to 
demonstrate to independent auditors …that it had improved access to justice compared 
with the last reporting period. These auditors … would [seek] evidence of disputant 
satisfaction with the fairness of the dispute resolution they got, and evidence of the 
effectiveness of dispute prevention.”
3


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