Ideology in the Language of Judges: How Judges Practice Law, Politics, and Courtroom Control

By Susan U. Philips | Go to book overview

3
Intertextual Relations between
Written and Spoken
Genres of Law

In chapter 2, I described how the legal profession, particularly legislatures and appellate courts and including the judges in this study, sees trial court judges as implementers of written law made by others. In this chapter and the next, I discuss how the judges in this study implement the written law in the spoken guilty plea. Both of these chapters then focus on the way legal ideologies, rather than political and everyday ideologies, dominate the practical consciousness of these judges. From the judges' point of view, the key issue in the guilty plea is to make sure defendants are waiving their constitutionally guaranteed due process rights to a trial knowingly and voluntarily as they plead guilty to a crime.

The salient kind of law the judges must follow, and which they see the procedure as "governed" by, is procedural law--law that tells them what they must do in the procedure to make sure the defendant's constitutional rights are protected. The key piece of state legislation that tells them what they must do is Rule 17, Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure: Pleas of Guilty and No Contest (Arizona Revised Statutes). In this chapter I show how the judges organize the spoken guilty plea into a sequence of topics, each of which indexes and meets a different part of Rule 17. But I argue that although on the face of it their courtroom work is a straightforward implementation of Rule 17, these judges are still engaged in interpreting the law. They must be responsive not only to Rule 17 but also to state appellate case law that interprets Rule 17. Their spoken procedures in turn show the influence of both the procedural rule and case law, as well as elaborations and abbreviations of specific topics in the procedure that are not dictated by either form of law.

Thus, there is ideological diversity across the written and spoken forms of law that address the same due process issues. And the spoken form, the guilty plea itself, indi

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