The Role of Legal Justification in Judicial Performance: Quasi-Experimental Evidence

24 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2018 Last revised: 9 Oct 2018

See all articles by Paige Marta Skiba

Paige Marta Skiba

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Alessandro Melcarne

Université Paris Ouest - Nanterre, La Défense

Giovanni Battista Ramello

University of Piemonte Orientale - A. Avogadro - Department of Public Policy and Public Choice; International Centre for Economic Research (ICER)

Date Written: June 14, 2018

Abstract

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

Skiba, Paige Marta and Melcarne, Alessandro and Ramello, Giovanni Battista, The Role of Legal Justification in Judicial Performance: Quasi-Experimental Evidence (June 14, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3195922 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3195922

Paige Marta Skiba (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-322-1958 (Phone)

Alessandro Melcarne

Université Paris Ouest - Nanterre, La Défense

200 Avenue de la République
Nanterre, Hauts de Seine 92000
France

Giovanni Battista Ramello

University of Piemonte Orientale - A. Avogadro - Department of Public Policy and Public Choice ( email )

Via Cavour 84
15100 Alessandria
Italy

International Centre for Economic Research (ICER) ( email )

Villa Gualino
Viale Settimio Severo, 63
10133 Torino
Italy

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