Judicial Priorities

52 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2015 Last revised: 16 Jan 2016

See all articles by Bert I. Huang

Bert I. Huang

Columbia Law School

Tejas N. Narechania

University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

Date Written: May 15, 2015


In an unprecedented move, the Illinois Supreme Court in the mid-1990s imposed hard caps on the state's appeals courts, drastically reducing the number of opinions they could publish, while also narrowing the formal criteria for opinions to qualify for publication. The high court explained that the amendment's purpose was to reduce the "avalanche of opinions emanating from [the] Appellate Court," which was causing legal research to become "unnecessarily burdensome, difficult and costly."

This unusual and sudden policy shift offers the chance to observe the priorities of a common law court in its production of published opinions. The method we introduce here can be seen as a sort of revealed-preferences approach: when forced to choose, which types of opinions were these courts more likely to continue publishing, and which types were they more likely to abandon?

Our method, which seems straightforward, has turned out to reveal more than we expected: it has uncovered more than the simple priorities raised in the thought experiment above. One especially surprising pattern forces us to develop new theories about how higher-level judicial priorities, such as a concern for outward appearances, compete for influence over judicial choices.

Keywords: civil procedure, judges, published opinions, appellate courts, publication habits, reproach aversion, reversals, affirmances, hard cases, judicial medium, Illinois, Illinois Supreme Court

Suggested Citation

Huang, Bert I. and Narechania, Tejas N., Judicial Priorities (May 15, 2015). University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 163, No. 6, p. 1719, 2015, Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-496, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2702838

Bert I. Huang

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Bert_Huang

Tejas N. Narechania (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley, School of Law ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.tejasnarechania.net

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