Courts, Tribunals, and Legal Unification - the Agency Problem

21 Pages Posted: 26 Nov 2002

See all articles by Paul B. Stephan

Paul B. Stephan

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: December 2002


I discuss the roles of adjudication bodies in promoting the unification of law. Then I clarify the redistributive dimensions of unification projects. Working within the familiar framework of game theory as applied to international relations, I distinguish between the coordination and defection problems that underlie most international interactions. I argue that adjudication bodies have the ability to generate solutions to some coordination problems, but face major obstacles when seeking to implement stable solutions to others, and to many defection problems. The difficulties vary depending on the types of adjudication bodies involved, but each type has its own drawbacks. I offer examples from a range of current unification projects - carriage of goods, antitrust, and environmental law - to illustrate how application problems can frustrate unification.

Suggested Citation

Stephan, Paul B., Courts, Tribunals, and Legal Unification - the Agency Problem (December 2002). Univ. of Virginia Law & Econ Research Paper No. 02-16, Available at SSRN: or

Paul B. Stephan (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

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Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States
434-924-7098 (Phone)
434-924-7536 (Fax)

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