The Independence of Judges Reduced Legal Development in England, 1600-1800

33 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2018

See all articles by Peter Murrell

Peter Murrell

University of Maryland - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 4, 2018


Conventional wisdom on English development confers iconic status on the clause of the Act of Settlement (1701) that mandated secure tenure for judges. Because the Act's effect on tenure was partial, the effect of tenure on judicial decisions can be identified. The paper estimates how the awarding of tenure changed the number of citations to judges' decisions, a measure of judicial quality. The empirics uses two new databases, one on judges' biographies and one recording citations in the English Reports to earlier decisions. Several strategies aid identification. A court-year panel permits difference-in-differences. Controls capture judges' human capital and the importance of litigation. Instrumental-variable estimates use judge life-expectancy and political vicissitudes as instruments. Tenure has a strong, significant, and deleterious effect on the quality of associate-judge decisions. Tenure has no effect for chief judges. The Act of Settlement reduces citations by 20% in the 18th century. The results are interpretable in terms of the incentives provided by a powerful legal profession that could protect vulnerable judges in a politically volatile era.

Keywords: judicial independence, judicial quality, Act of Settlement, citations, tenure, institutional development

JEL Classification: K4, N43, O43, H11, D78

Suggested Citation

Murrell, Peter, The Independence of Judges Reduced Legal Development in England, 1600-1800 (October 4, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Peter Murrell (Contact Author)

University of Maryland - Department of Economics ( email )

College Park, MD 20742
United States
301-405-3476 (Phone)
301-405-3542 (Fax)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics