In a recent sociological study of pre-trial procedures, it was noted that ‘in the revised sociology of law the procedures of the legal structure have been curiously ignored’ (McBarnet, 1976, p. 172). This remark would appear to be particularly apt in relation to court procedures which, with a few notable exceptions (e.g. Garfinkel, 1956; Linton, 1965; Emerson, 1969; Carlen, 1974, 1975, 1976a, ... [Show full abstract] 1976b), have received relatively little detailed attention from social scientists. To an extent this can be seen to be perfectly consistent with the fact that, in purely quantitative terms (amount of time involved, manpower, etc.), court proceedings comprise a very small and diminishing proportion of the total volume of legal activity that takes place in advanced industrial societies. And it is also consistent with the way in which sociology’s traditional concern with the problem of social order at the societal or macro- level of analysis implies a view of what goes on in courts as no more than one tiny element of the legal system, which in turn is only a part of the social structure as a whole.