Formation of Procedural Justice Judgments in Legal Negotiation

Abstract

Research has indicated that procedural justice—fairness of decisionmaking processes—plays an important role in bilateral legal negotiation, encouraging the acceptance of negotiated agreements. Additionally, research has suggested that procedural justice leads to opportunities for increased integrative bargaining. However, procedural justice judgments are typically measured as subjective assessments by disputants. If procedural justice plays an important role in legal dispute negotiation, it is critical to understand how individuals form judgments about fairness of process. The study presented explores antecedents of procedural justice judgments in legal negotiation. Results suggest that although all potential identified antecedent variables—voice, courtesy/respect, trust, and neutrality—play a role in judgments about procedural justice, the primary component is courtesy/respect behavior by the speaker and her partner. Parties share some agreement about the presence of courtesy/respect behavior and trust behavior, and third-party coders can identify behavior that reliably relates to the parties’ procedural justice antecedent assessments. Additionally, results indicate that appeals to potential “neutral” benchmarks such as legal authority lead to lower assessments of procedural justice. These findings suggest that courtesy and respect are the primary drivers of negotiators’ procedural justice assessments, and that such courtesy/respect behavior is not merely a subjective artifact of the participant but can be observed by a third-party coder.

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Correspondence to Rebecca Hollander-Blumoff.

Appendix: Overview of Problem

Appendix: Overview of Problem

In this exercise, each student was randomly assigned a role as a lawyer for either a homeowner or a contractor in a dispute over a contract for the construction of an in-ground custom-designed swimming pool. Each party has a grievance with the other party: the homeowner is angry because the swimming pool was not built according to contract specification and the contractor has not yet received full payment for the project and is anxious to be paid.

A desirable outcome for the homeowner in this setting involves additional work performed by the contractor on the swimming pool, while a desirable outcome for the contractor involves additional payment by the homeowner to the contractor. Typically, the homeowner wants as much additional work performed as possible while paying as little money as possible to the contractor, whereas the contractor wants as much money as possible from the homeowner while performing as little work as possible. The agreements negotiated uniformly involved some amount of work performed by the contractor for some amount of payment by the homeowner. Items that could be negotiated included the construction of pool steps, removal or replacement of a diving board, construction of a small or large fence, installation of automatic or portable sweepers, replacement of tile, and a variety of smaller items, including warranty and pool chemicals. The monetary value of the agreement to the homeowner consisted of the value of the work performed minus the amount of money paid, whereas the monetary value of the agreement to the contractor consisted of the amount of money paid minus the cost of the work performed.

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Hollander-Blumoff, R. Formation of Procedural Justice Judgments in Legal Negotiation. Group Decis Negot 26, 19–43 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10726-016-9498-2

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Keywords

  • Procedural justice
  • Legal negotiation
  • Procedural justice antecedents