• The Extralegal Forum and Legal Power: The Dynamics of the Relationship — Other Pipelines

      Conn, Stephen (Institute of Social, Economic and Government Research, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, 1974-02-26)
      Diverse groups — e.g., Brazilian squatters, Navajos, village Eskimos and Indians — look to special forums to resolve disputes outside the formal legal system. These forums are employed because they accept disputes as defined by their clients and offer remedies based upon these conceptualizations. Formal agents of the law in their environments cannot do this. When these forums are extralegal (without formal legal authority to act) and are located in an environment where the formal legal process has the theoretical capacity to intervene in the disputes, they must tap into authentic lines of power to maintain their credibility with their constituents. Legal power is not usually formally delegated without defined limits upon its use. Because extralegal forums often must be free from the constraints of particular norms and processes, in order to correctly define and remedy disputes, extralegal forums seek borrowed power through special relationships with formal agents of legal power. Then they reapply it to meet the needs of their constituents. This paper describes the ways to study these relationships and their likely impact upon an informal forum. The author suggests a way of viewing extralegal dispute resolution in a given community against the larger matrix of relationships between the formal and informal legal process. He draws upon his field work in Brazilian squatter colonies, Navajo Indian communities, and rural Athabascan and Eskimo villages in Alaska.