Revisiting Eisenberg and Plaintiff Success: State Court Civil Trial and Appellate Outcomes
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Volume 13, Issue 3, 516–535, September 2016 Forthcoming
31 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2016 Last revised: 11 Aug 2016
Date Written: April 18, 2016
In earlier research on federal civil cases Eisenberg found an association between plaintiff success in pretrial motions and at trial. Our extension of Eisenberg’s analysis twenty years later into the state court context, however, did not find any significant association between a plaintiff’s success at trial and in preserving that trial victory on appeal. Our results imply that a plaintiff’s decision to pursue litigation to a trial court conclusion is analytically distinct from the plaintiff’s decision to defend an appeal of its trial court win brought by a disgruntled defendant. We consider various factors that likely account for the observed differences that distinguish our results from Eisenberg’s. First, legal cases that persist to an appellate outcome are a filtered subset of underlying trials and legal disputes and various selection effects inform much of this case filtering. Second, where Eisenberg analyzed the relation between pre-trial motions and trial outcomes in federal courts, we assessed possible relations between trial and appellate court outcomes in state courts. The pre-trial and trial context and the trial and appeals context likely differ in ways that disturb plaintiff success. Third, while Eisenberg studied federal cases between 1978-85 we studied state cases between 2001-2009. In addition to differences between federal and state civil cases, the composition of cases that selected into formal litigation may have evolved over time.
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