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Case-by-Case Adjudication and the Path of the Law

28 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2010 Last revised: 31 Dec 2014

Anthony Niblett

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 30, 2012


This paper presents a model of judging, illustrating how case law evolves when two types of judges with different policy preferences decide cases narrowly. The model shows that case law is unlikely to reflect the midpoint of the judges' ideal points. The result challenges the conventional wisdom suggesting that balancing ideologically extreme judges will likely yield moderate laws. The model suggests that a centrist executive, faced with a sitting extreme left-wing judge, should appoint a moderate judge rather than an extreme right-wing judge.

Keywords: Judges, Courts, Law and Economics, Legal Rules, Judicial Appointments, Dispute Resolution, Evolution, Path Dependence, Standards, Rules

JEL Classification: K10, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Niblett, Anthony, Case-by-Case Adjudication and the Path of the Law (April 30, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Anthony Niblett (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5

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