Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Criminology and Criminal Justice

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Lee A. Slocum, PhD


Marisa Omori, PhD


Lee A. Slocum, PhD

Marisa Omori, PhD

Beth M. Huebner, PhD

Andres F. Rengifo, PhD


The court communities and inhabited institutions perspectives posit that courts should be examined through a lens that considers the complex and collaborative process that court actors (e.g., judges, prosecutors, and defense counsels), collectively referred to as the courtroom workgroup, engage in during case processing. However, empirical research infrequently examines such intricacies and devotes little attention to how the characteristics of workgroup members influence courtroom interactions, the efficiency they process cases, and ultimately case decisions. This omission is notable because theory asserts that the dynamics of the workgroup are at least in part driven by the characteristics of its members.

This dissertation attempts to bridge the disconnect between theory and theory testing by centering its attention on courtroom workgroups and courtroom processes. Using observational data on a sample of pre-trial detention hearing cases (N = 330) processed virtually in a New Jersey courtroom, I examine how race and gender similarities among workgroup members and defense counsel type (private versus public defender) influences courtroom efficiency. I focus on three components of efficiency: communication, cooperation, and coordination. Second, I examine how these workgroup characteristics as well as the gender and racial composition of the workgroup are related to whether a defendant is ordered detained. Finally, I explore the potential mediating effects of courtroom efficiency on the relationships between workgroup characteristics (race and gender similarities and defense counsel type) and case decisions.

Results show that although race and gender similarities do not significantly influence courtroom efficiency, defense counsel type plays a critical role — cases involving public defenders are more efficiently disposed of by the court. This study also finds that the characteristics of the workgroup examined do not directly or indirectly (through courtroom efficiency) influence case decisions. These results may better help to understand how the court process may be influenced by the characteristics of the workgroup members and collectively the workgroup, as well as how it may (or may not) affect case decisions. It also provides important insights into case processing and outcomes in a new judicial landscape of bail reform and virtual courts. Implications and future research are also discussed.