Informal law has three meanings within the social science literature. Traditionally it refers to the ways groups and communities bring conformity to their social norms, and as such, it forms part of the wider concept of social control. More recently, informal law has come to refer to a set of more-formalized dispute settlement procedures involving mediation and restorative justice that scholars see as alternatives to the formal law of courts, trials, and judges. Third, informal law refers to the ways that formal law operates in practice rather than in theory, such as informal discretion by police officers, plea negotiations by attorneys, and the unwritten norms and practices of the legal system. In each case, informal law is a mechanism used by a social group both ...

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