Is Bigger Always Better? On Optimal Panel Size, with Evidence from the Supreme Court of Canada
30 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2008 Last revised: 14 May 2011
Date Written: May 11, 2011
The US Supreme Court typically sits en banc. Historically, the House of Lords in the UK sat in panels of five. Its new successor, the UK Supreme Court, now sits in panels of five, seven or nine justices. A similar practice has long been in place at the Supreme Court of Canada, which routinely sits in panels of five, seven, or nine justices. We develop a formal model of the optimal choice of panel size. The model suggests that in the presence of scarce judicial resources, panel sizes can be deliberately adjusted to improve allocational eciency. Using data from appeals heard by the Supreme Court of Canada from 1984-2005, we uncover evidence that the Court may be using varied panel sizes in a manner consistent with the predictions of our model.
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