Instituttlunsj: Lay participation in legal systems: The cases of Norway and the United States
Fulbright-stipendiat Anna Offit presenterer sin forskning. Instituttleder Ulf Stridbeck leder lunsjen.
Recent global events have highlighted the role that legal systems will continue to play in deterring and rehabilitating people who break laws. And lay decision-makers play a decisive role imbuing these legal systems with legitimacy and public confidence. To this end, Norway’s imminent jury reform is a significant and timely subject of study.
My Fulbright study of lay participation in Norway has posed two, central questions.
- Why is Norway preparing to eliminate its jury system at a time when countries around the world are adopting them?
- How do Norwegian lawyers’ attitudes towards juries relate to culturally specific norms and intuitions about justice?
Drawing on interviews with Norwegian and American prosecutors and judges, my presentation shares insights from this ongoing research. As a point of departure, I examine two illustrative, criminal cases: A child abuse jury trial in the U.S., and an attempted murder jury trial in Oslo. These cases exemplify Norwegian and American lawyers' distinct ideas about lay participation in legal systems, by their own accounts.
I argue that where American prosecutors invoke lay decision-makers as a check on their own—and judges’— discretion, Norwegian prosecutors and judges focus on mitigating jurors’ discretion. Though lay decision-makers inject uncertainty into American and Norwegian legal proceedings alike, Norwegian lawyers view this unpredictability as an obstacle to justice rather than a strategic resource. These distinct orientations toward lay participation—which emerge in everyday legal practice— reveal differences in the legal profession in the U.S. and in Norway.