Measuring Inconsistency, Indeterminacy, and Error in Adjudication
Joshua B. Fischman
Northwestern University - School of Law
May 2, 2012
Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2011-36
Efforts to measure the influence of law on judicial decisions may seem futile given widespread disagreement about the nature of law. This article demonstrates that it is nevertheless possible to reach objective, albeit limited, empirical conclusions about judicial compliance with legal obligation. It begins by formalizing three criteria essential for evaluating any system of adjudication: inter-judge inconsistency, legal indeterminacy, and judicial error. It then clarifies what can be learned about these criteria from observational data on single-judge adjudication. The precise level of inconsistency cannot be identified, but it is possible to estimate a range of feasible values. Similarly, rates of indeterminacy and error cannot be estimated in isolation, but one can estimate a curve that identifies feasible combinations of these rates. The methodologies developed in this article are illustrated using data on immigration adjudication.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 43
JEL Classification: K4working papers series
Date posted: July 15, 2011 ; Last revised: May 15, 2012
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