Judicial Compliance in District Courts

46 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2016 Last revised: 30 May 2017

See all articles by Daniel L. Chen

Daniel L. Chen

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse School of Economics, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, University of Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France

Jens Frankenreiter

Max Planck Bonn

Susan Yeh

Charles River Associates (CRA)

Date Written: March 1, 2016

Abstract

Public enforcement of law relies on the use of public agents, such as judges, to follow the law. Are judges motivated only by strategic interests and ideology, as many models posit, rather than a duty to follow the law? We use the random assignment of U.S. Federal judges setting geographically-local precedent to document the causal impact of court decisions in a hierarchical legal system. We examine lower court cases filed before and resolved after higher court decisions and find that lower courts are 29-37% points more likely to rule in the manner of the higher court. The results obtain when the higher court case was decided in the same doctrinal area as the pending case and when the higher court case was decided on the merits. Reversals by the higher court have no significant effects. These results provide clean evidence that judges are motivated to follow the law and are not solely motivated by policy preferences.

Suggested Citation

Chen, Daniel L. and Frankenreiter, Jens and Yeh, Susan, Judicial Compliance in District Courts (March 1, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2740594 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2740594

Daniel L. Chen (Contact Author)

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse School of Economics, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, University of Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France ( email )

21 allée de Brienne
31015 Toulouse cedex 6 France
Toulouse, 31015
France

Jens Frankenreiter

Max Planck Bonn ( email )

Kurt Schumacher Str 10
Bonn, 53113
Germany

Susan Yeh

Charles River Associates (CRA) ( email )

1201 F. St. NW
Ste. 700
Washington, DC 20004
United States

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