Legislating Incentives for Attorney Representation in Civil Rights Litigation

Journal of Law and Courts, vol. 2 (Fall 2014)

47 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2011 Last revised: 15 May 2014

Sean Farhang

University of California, Berkeley

Douglas M. Spencer

University of Connecticut, School of Law

Date Written: March 15, 2014

Abstract

Congress routinely relies upon private lawsuits to enforce its mandates. In this paper we investigate whether, when it does so, the details of the legislation can importantly influence the extent to which the private bar is mobilized to carry out the prosecutorial function. Using an original and novel dataset based upon review of archived litigation documents for cases filed in the Northern and Eastern Districts of California over the two decades spanning 1981 to 2000, we examine the effects of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which increased economic damages available to Title VII job discrimination plaintiffs, on their ability to secure counsel. We find that over the course of the decade after passage, the law substantially increased the probability that Title VII plaintiffs would be represented by counsel, and that in doing so it reversed a decade long trend in the opposite direction.

Keywords: Representation, job discrimination, private enforcement, civil rights, litigation, change point models

JEL Classification: C13, D78, J78, K31, K41

Suggested Citation

Farhang, Sean and Spencer, Douglas M., Legislating Incentives for Attorney Representation in Civil Rights Litigation (March 15, 2014). Journal of Law and Courts, vol. 2 (Fall 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1882245 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1882245

Sean Farhang

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Douglas M. Spencer (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut, School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

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