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Formal adjudication is touted as an alternative to subjective decision-making, a process constrained by objective rules and standards that can justify enforcing judicial outcomes. Yet courtrooms are sites of intense emotional drama, really more like theaters than laboratories. For centuries, critics have attacked the histrionic aspects of legal process as a trumped up show that fascinates and distracts us from the reality of injustice outside the courtroom.
While the speaker agrees that adjudication is a performance, in her view, it is the very obvious artificiality of that performance that may be its saving grace. Courtroom performances do not produce objectively truthful representations of the world as it is and uniquely correct applications of law to that world. They may provide some relative legitimacy for enforcement, however, by enacting a patently illusory ideal justice and confronting us with the gap between that ideal and our lived reality.