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Legal-Lay CommunicationTextual Travels in the Law$
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Chris Heffer, Frances Rock, and John Conley

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199746842

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199746842.001.0001

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Communication and Magic

Communication and Magic

Authorized Voice, Legal-Linguistic Habitus, and the Recontextualization of “Beyond Reasonable Doubt”

Chapter:
(p.206) Chapter 10 Communication and Magic
Source:
Legal-Lay Communication
Author(s):

Chris Heffer

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199746842.003.0010

Chris Heffer sets out an argument, illustrated through judicial attitudes to jury instruction on the criminal standard of proof, about how authorized language can lead over time to a breakdown in legal-lay communication. He argues that a few individuals, invested with the highest institutional authority, can use their powerful agency, or authorized voice, in legal metadiscourse to establish a privileged reading of a text that resounds through time. This is internalized as authoritative discourse to the point where it becomes part of a judge’s accumulated, normalized and unquestioned experience of discursive practice in legal settings. Where this legal-linguistic habitus is, or becomes, incommensurable with lay discursive practice, it can result in the legal professional failing to hear the lay voice and tending to question the competence of the lay person rather than the authoritative discourse. This communication breakdown can be highly consequential and may result in miscarriages of justice.

Keywords:   Decontextualization, recontextualization, jury instruction, authoritative discourse, linguistic habitus, beyond reasonable doubt, judicial decisions, discursive practice, voice, judicial summing-up

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