The Effect of Rules Shifting Supreme Court Jurisdiction from Mandatory to Discretionary — An Empirical Lesson from Taiwan

38 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2009

See all articles by Theodore Eisenberg

Theodore Eisenberg

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased)

Kuo‐Chang Huang

Institutum Iurisprudentiae

Date Written: November 19, 2009


Theoretical works suggest that granting a supreme court discretion in choosing the cases to be decided on the merits could shift dockets away from traditional case-based adjudication and towards issue-based adjudication. According to this prediction, legislatures can recast supreme courts’ roles in society by modifying jurisdictional rules. This study tests this prediction empirically. Using a newly assembled data set on appeals terminated by the Taiwan Supreme Court for the period 1996-2008, we study the effect of jurisdictional-source procedural reform, a switch from mandatory jurisdiction to discretionary jurisdiction in 2003, on the Taiwan Supreme Court’s performance. Our study shows that the 2003 reform failed to transform the function of the Court from correcting error to a greater role in leading the development of legal doctrine as intended by the legislature. Our findings suggest that a supreme court can adjust the way it conducts business according to its own preference and the role it defines for itself, which are influenced both by the background against which it operates and the inertia of its members’ working habits. Our study informs policy-makers that merely amending procedural rules, without more, is unlikely to change the function of a supreme court. Our findings also suggest that statutorily dictated mandatory jurisdiction may not be implemented by a high court faced with caseload pressure.

Keywords: Courts, Jursidiction, Appeals

JEL Classification: K10, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Eisenberg, Theodore and Huang, Kuo-Chang, The Effect of Rules Shifting Supreme Court Jurisdiction from Mandatory to Discretionary — An Empirical Lesson from Taiwan (November 19, 2009). Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1509452. Available at SSRN: or

Theodore Eisenberg (Contact Author)

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased) ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Kuo-Chang Huang

Institutum Iurisprudentiae ( email )

Taipei, 11529
886-2-26525419 (Phone)
886-2-27859471 (Fax)

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