The Role of Legal Justiﬁcation in Judicial Performance: Quasi-Experimental Evidence
24 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2018 Last revised: 9 Oct 2018
Date Written: June 14, 2018
The Italian judicial system is notoriously slow, with an estimated backlog of 5 million cases. We use a sample of 903,660 court cases in Turin to study the role that various adjudication procedures play in judicial delay. We exploit plausibly exogenous variation in the procedures governing how judges rule on small claims and implement a quasi-experimental approach to estimate the causal eﬀect of less restrictive procedures on judicial delay. For any claim valued below e1,100, judges do not need to provide formal legal justiﬁcation for their decisions. Judges can rule based on “equità”, i.e., fairness, intuition or commonsense grounds. For cases valued above this threshold, judges do not have such ﬂexibility. Our regression discontinuity estimates, which ex-ploit the variation in these adjudication procedures just above and just below this threshold, reveal that when judges are able to rule without providing legal justiﬁcation, decisions are made nearly six months faster. We discuss the policy implications in the realm of small claims including methods to ease congestion in Italian courts and eﬀorts to improve judicial performance more broadly.
Keywords: regression discontinuity, judicial decision making
JEL Classification: K41, C21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation