Appellate Courts and Caseload Pressure

43 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2017

See all articles by Shay Lavie

Shay Lavie

Tel Aviv University - Buchmann Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2016


How do appellate courts react to heavier workloads? This Article argues that different appellate courts respond differently to similar caseload pressure, depending on each circuit's norms, and it supports this proposition by using a unique empirical methodology.

The hypothesis rests on two observations. First, when they cope with caseload increases, courts have a wide array of time-saving mechanisms to choose from. Second, appellate courts diverge. Each has its distinct procedures, norms, and culture. Therefore, circuit courts should respond to workload pressure with different time-management tools. The Article supports this proposition empirically, using a natural experiment in the Second and Ninth Circuits. It shows that the two courts responded differently to caseload pressures, along multiple dimensions. In the Ninth Circuit, for example, judges chose to dissent less; the Second Circuit reversed fewer cases and took longer to decide. In general, the Ninth Circuit better handled the pressure. Looking at the unique norms in each court, the Article further demonstrates that these findings are not coincidental. Circuits with more a resilient, flexible culture ― like the Ninth Circuit ― cope with workload pressure better than circuits with more rigid procedural safeguards ― like the Second Circuit.

Keywords: Empirical Legal Studies, Courts, Caseload Pressure, The Ninth Circuit

JEL Classification: K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Lavie, Shay, Appellate Courts and Caseload Pressure (2016). Stanford Law & Policy Review, Vol. 27, 2016. Available at SSRN:

Shay Lavie (Contact Author)

Tel Aviv University - Buchmann Faculty of Law ( email )

Ramat Aviv
Tel Aviv 69978, IL
972-3-6409146 (Phone)


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