Legal Pluralism in an American Community: Perspectives on a Civil Trial Court

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This article explores the role of a local trial court in terms of the plurality of legal systems‐both formal and informal‐found in the community in which the court operates. The concept of legal pluralism in American society is examined, and a comparison is made between the study of plural normative systems and the study of disputes and dispute processing. Two examples of legal pluralism drawn from an empirical study of a mid western community are presented: the first exploring oral contractual agreements among farmers and the second examining formal and informal norms concerning divorce. The application of this form of analysis is found to reveal important distinctions between the manifest and latent functions that the trial court performs in its community setting.

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Law & Social Inquiry: Journal of the American Bar Foundation

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