Social Courts in Theory and Practice: Yugoslav Workers' Courts in Comparative Perspective

By Robert M. Hayden | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
The Court and the Research

The Case Study: The CAL in Belgrade

Why Belgrade?

An obvious question for any case study is why the particular institution, location, or phenomenon studied was chosen. The Belgrade CAL was an attractive candidate for the study for several reasons. It was (and is) the busiest CAL in the country in terms of numbers of cases filed. This heavy work load meant that I was likely to be able to observe a wider variety of cases than might have been the case in a smaller court. Also, the heaviest concentration of lawyers in Serbia is in Belgrade (see chapter 8), which meant that I would probably be able to see more lawyers in action than in a smaller town, where the small size of the bar may have affected relations between lawyers and court personnel.

On the other hand, the Belgrade CAL was perhaps an unrepresentative court, for some of these same reasons. First, the heavy caseload of that court may mean that it handles cases differently from its less busy counterparts. Similarly, the larger concentration of lawyers may mean that matters are handled more formally or in some other way differently than in courts where the "bargaining arenas" are smaller (cf. Galanter 1984b). One of the problematic features of many ethnographic studies of courts is that their subjects are urban rather than rural institutions and may not be representative of the latter ( cf. Daniels 1985). At one stage I had hoped to be able to control at least partially for these problems by studying a smaller CAL for contrast, but it was not possible to do so. However, some data from other, smaller CALs are available, which indicate that the Belgrade court is probably not atypical in its handling of cases; these data are discussed below.

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