Evolution of the Common Law and the Emergence of Compromise

Posted: 11 Jul 2000

See all articles by Douglas Glen Whitman

Douglas Glen Whitman

California State University, Northridge - Department of Economics

Abstract

In a system of judge-made law, each judge who decides a case in a particular area of law may, in principle, choose to depart from precedent in favor of another rule. This paper examines the question of whether such a system will produce constant oscillation among different legal rules, or whether it will instead produce a single rule that potential litigants can rely upon when choosing their behavior. Using a model of the legal process that treats judges as self-interested agents maximizing their private and reputation-based utility, this article derives conditions under which the common-law process will produce convergence on a single rule rather than oscillation between rules. The article also examines the circumstances in which the introduction of a compromise rule can resolve a problem of oscillation between rules.

Suggested Citation

Whitman, Douglas Glen, Evolution of the Common Law and the Emergence of Compromise. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=231499

Douglas Glen Whitman (Contact Author)

California State University, Northridge - Department of Economics ( email )

18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330
United States
818-677-4542 (Phone)

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