This article demonstrates the contributions of Katovich and Couch's (1992) formal theory of social pasts to conceptualizations of social world contexts and processual order (Strauss 1978; 1993). Using interview and observational data from three criminal courts, I focus on the interrelationship of two social world contextual features: (1) the organization of participants' social pasts, and (2) the degree of ideological consensus between participants in terms of sentencing goals. These two factors interact to influence interorganizational relationships in the three courts; and, in combination with individual criminal case characteristics, influence actors' case processing strategies. The article concludes by discussing the implications of the organization of social pasts in criminal courts and organizational arenas in general for the availability and attractiveness of alternative action strategies, as well as the management of uncertainty in organizational decision making. I also suggest several directions for further research.