What happens when a person's common-sense view of justice diverges from the sense of justice he or she sees enshrined in particular laws? In particular, does the perception of one particular law as unjust make an individual less likely to comply with unrelated laws? This Article advances the Flouting Thesis - the idea that the perceived legitimacy of one law or legal outcome can influence one's willingness to comply with unrelated laws - and provides original experimental evidence to support this thesis. The results suggest that willingness to disobey the law can extend far beyond the particular unjust law in question, to willingness to flout unrelated laws commonly encountered in everyday life (such as traffic violations, petty theft, and copyright restrictions), as well as willingness of mock jurors to engage in juror nullification. Finally, this Article explores the relationship between perceived injustice and flouting and offers several possible explanations, including the role of law in American popular culture and the expressive function of the law in producing compliance.

Date of this Version

April 2005