Remote rituals in virtual courts

Meredith Rossner*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    This article examines the ritual dynamics of virtual court hearings. While audio-visual links for select court participants have been available for decades, in a virtual hearing all parties participate using a videoconferencing platform. Such hearings have proliferated during the COVID-19 pandemic, as courts around the world have rushed to develop remote justice options. Scholars and legal professionals have expressed a range of concerns about this development, not least that there are elements of physical courtroom rituals that cannot be rendered virtually. Drawing on two recent empirical examinations of virtual courts, I explore what these hearings look and feel like for participants. I focus on the relationship between the material and symbolic elements of a court ritual and the meaning and experience of virtual co-presence. In some circumstances, traditional elements of court have been translated for a virtual space. In other ways, the ritual has been transformed. I conclude by discussing the limitations and potential of courts of the future.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)334-361
    Number of pages28
    JournalJournal of Law and Society
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


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