The Use of Foreign Decisions by Federal Courts: An Empirical Analysis
David T. Zaring
University of Pennsylvania - Legal Studies Department
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, July 2006
Washington & Lee Legal Studies Paper No. 2006-04
This article adds an empirical perspective to the debate over the use of foreign authority by federal courts. It surveys sixty years of federal court practice in citing opinions from foreign high courts, through a citation count analysis. The data reveals that federal courts rarely cite to foreign decisions, they do so no more now than they did in the past, and on those few occasions where they do cite to foreign decisions, it's usually not to help them interpret domestic law. Instead the citation of foreign decisions is best understood as a relatively rare phenomenon of judicial dialogue in cases where international issues are squarely presented by the facts. The article examines those few cases where federal courts have cited foreign decisions in some detail, and briefly considers some implications of the limited use of foreign decisions by federal courts.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 35Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: April 27, 2006 ; Last revised: July 4, 2013
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