Abstract 15:177-188

Muszyński, Karol (2014) Ethan Couch case — on dangers of norm contextualization in the conditions of the privatization of court proceedings. "Normy, Dewiacje i Kontrola Społeczna" 15: 177-188.



The paper intends to analyze the case of Ethan Couch: a 16-year old American who caused the death of four individuals while driving under the influence of alcohol. He was then quite leniently treated by the judge who had accepted the arguments put forward by the expert psychiatrist that the offender showed symptoms of “affluenza” — condition related to the inability of assessing social norms due to a permissive upbringing style. The author argues that the judgment is the consequence of aberrant coupling of two phenomena present in American law: privatization of the justice system (concept emerged in the law & economics school), and the contextualization of norms considered as environmentally created (concept which gained its momentum within the framework of post-modernism studies). While norm contextualization was initially used to justify more liberal treatment granted to lower-class representatives, in the said case it was employed in reference to individuals from upper levels of the social ladder. This was caused by the privatization of the justice system, which led to the differentiation of the actual position of individuals in the legal system.



justice system, privatization, law & economics, postmodernism