Routine and Adversarial Justice

  • Douglas W. Maynard


“Plea bargaining” discourse can be approached sociologically by exploring how an interactionally achieved structure is at the root of various phenomena covered by the term. The bargaining sequence is a fundamental unit of social organization1 involved in arranging charges, sentences, dismissals, continuances, and trials for misdemeanor cases. Systematic procedures for leading into, elaborating, and exiting from the sequence relate it to other components of negotiation, such as discussion, argument, justification, counterproposing, third-party participation, and so on.


Drunk Driving Misdemeanor Case District Attorney Social Organization1 Disorderly Conduct 
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  1. 1.
    Schegloff (1980: 151) addresses how the study of conversational turns and sequences is fundamentally an inquiry into social organization. Sociologists, traditionally concerned with abstractions such as unit acts, roles, groups, and aggretates, have neglected “actual particular, social actions, and organized sequences of them.”Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Part of the argument here is that plea bargaining discourse concerning individual cases displays a heterogeneity not susceptible to glosses of the sort attempted by the cited sources. On this point, see Lynch (1979: 315).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    A more technical analysis would reveal that DA3’s utterance in lines 20, 22–23, is fitted, in a variety of ways, with his turn at lines 12–15 and thus attempts to delete the “sequential implicativeness” (Schegloff and Sacks, 1974: 239) of PD2’s utterance at lines 16–19.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    That is, “technical correctness” and “substantial interests of justice” correspond to professionally learned distinctions between the formal law and its intent, as argued in Chapter 3.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    It is not that production of a rejoinder is impossible, but that PD2’s utterance sequentially implicates a report or suggestion regarding what the DA “wants” as a sentence. A rejoinder on the “prior record” topic would take special work by PD3 to tie his utterance to that topic, whereas producing the implicated utterance requires no special means of accomplishing its “why that now” status. See Sacks (1972: lecture 4) and Sacks et al. (1974).Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    A series of bargaining sequences is sometimes employed in the discussion of any one case. Example (4) shows this, and the matter is explored further in Chapter 8. 8“Drinalp” derives from the fictitious name, “DRiving under the INfluence of ALcohol Program.” A real acronym, which needs to be disguised for purposes of anonymity, was used in the negotiations.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas W. Maynard
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WisconsinMadisonUSA

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