--- - |2 Abstract As communities face unrest and protest because of perceived racial bias and decreased trust and confidence in the criminal justice system, it is critical to explore mechanisms that foster institutional legitimacy. Voice is a central element in the procedural justice framework because it is anticipated to promote process control as well as a shared understanding between institutions and communities. As a concept, however, voice is undertheorized. Measures of voice used in legitimacy research may result in oversimplification of the concept, not fully capturing the struggles disadvantaged people face in trying to exercise influence in the court system. Through the use of rich data from qualitative interviews with youth and families involved in the juvenile justice system and in‐depth observations of juvenile court events, we explore what voice is, the mechanisms through which people try to assert voice, and how voice matters in the legal process. Respondents sought voice for many reasons, including to validate their experiences, to affirm their membership in a community, and to assert concerns about perceived police misconduct. Contrary to traditional conceptualizations of voice as a static event (e.g., having voice or not having voice), voice was a process of negotiating dialogue between court officials and court participants throughout the legal process. - 'Criminology, EarlyView. '