A Norms Approach to Jury “Nullification:” Interests, Values, and Scripts


  • I wish to thank Valerie Hans, Lars Noah, as well as participants in faculty workshops at Florida State University College of Law and University of Houston Law Center.

Address correspondence to Joseph Sanders, University of Houston Law Center, 100 Law Center, Houston, TX 77204, USA. Telephone: (713) 743-2125. E-mail: Sanders@uh.edu.


Juries and other lay tribunals are often justified because they leaven the law with community norms. Unfortunately, we do not have a particularly good theory of when and how juries substitute their normative judgments for the law. A first step in developing such a theory is to examine the nature of norms and the way jurors bring normative judgments to their task. In this article I compare and contrast different understandings of norms that currently are in vogue in the social sciences and then use these approaches to develop a more systematic understanding of when juries do and when they do not substitute their normative judgment for that of the law.