Professional Emotions in Court - 
      Stina Bergman Blix
      Åsa Wettergren

Professional Emotions in Court

A Sociological Perspective

; Åsa Wettergren

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. Les mer
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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.
Forlag: Routledge
Innbinding: Paperback
Språk: Engelsk
Sider: 208
ISBN: 9780367821128
Format: 23 x 16 cm

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"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.


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

Power emotions

The Swedish judicial system

Education and the legal professions

Prosecutor and prosecution

Judge and the court

Defence and victim counsels

The trial

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

The judge

A formative shame/pride moment

Pride in status and comfort with power


General intellectual dealers

Procedural justice: an increased service orientation

The prosecutor

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

Court fears

Prosecution fears

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

Tacit signals

The judge's perspective: Backstage preparation and front-stage presentation

Focus and strategic emotion management

Front-stage strategic empathy

Dramaturgical stress

Emotional toning: Toning down and toning up emotional expressions


5. Power and status in court

The autonomous judge: Power issues

Power discomfort

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

Emotional profiles

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.