Judicial Behavior and Devolution at the Privy Council

46 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2017 Last revised: 10 Mar 2017

See all articles by Sofia Amaral-Garcia

Sofia Amaral-Garcia

Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)

Nuno Garoupa

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School

Date Written: February 1, 2017


In this article, we study judicial behavior at the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC). British judges in general, and British high court judges in particular, are perceived to be independent and isolated from political pressure and interference. Furthermore, these judges tend to show a particularly high rate of consensus. This has led many scholars to consider that, contrarily to what holds for several other courts around the world (such as the US Supreme Court), the attitudinal model does not find support when British higher court judges are considered. In this paper we assess whether similar conclusions might be drawn from the JCPC, another British court of last resort. We create a unique dataset to study empirically decisions of the JCPC and investigate the extent to which judges exhibit different judicial behavior depending on the type of appeal being brought to the court, i.e., Commonwealth, devolution and domestic appeals. Our results indicate a higher polarization of judicial behavior in the context of devolution appeals (as measured by separate opinions). We discuss these results in the context of the comparative judicial behavior literature and the role of courts in the common law world (with particular reference to human rights).

Keywords: Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, British higher court judges, judicial behavior, devolution cases, Commonwealth cases, separate opinions, human rights

JEL Classification: K0

Suggested Citation

Amaral-Garcia, Sofia and Garoupa, Nuno, Judicial Behavior and Devolution at the Privy Council (February 1, 2017). DIW Berlin Discussion Paper No. 1643, Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-17, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2922411 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2922411

Sofia Amaral-Garcia (Contact Author)

Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) ( email )

CP 132 Av FD Roosevelt 50
Brussels, Brussels 1050

Nuno Garoupa

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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