Judges in the Lab: No Precedent Effects, No Common/Civil Law Differences

Harvard Law School John M. Olin Center Discussion Paper No. 1044 (2020)

127 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2020

See all articles by Holger Spamann

Holger Spamann

Harvard Law School; ECGI

Lars Klöhn

Humboldt University of Berlin - Faculty of Law

Christophe Jamin

Sciences Po Law School

Vikramaditya S. Khanna

University of Michigan Law School

John Zhuang Liu

The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen

Pavan K Mamidi

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Alexander Morell

University of Mannheim

Ivan Reidel

Sinfonik

Date Written: October 11, 2020

Abstract

In our lab, 299 real judges from seven major jurisdictions (Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, USA) spend up to 55 minutes to judge an international criminal appeals case and determine the appropriate prison sentence. The lab computer (1) logs their use of the documents (briefs, statement of facts, trial judgment, statute, precedent), and (2) randomly assigns each judge (i) a horizontal precedent disfavoring, favoring, or strongly favoring defendant, (ii) a sympathetic or an unsympathetic defendant, and (iii) a short, medium, or long sentence anchor. Document use and written reasons differ between countries but not between common and civil law. Precedent effect is barely detectable and estimated to be less, and bounded to be not much greater, than that of legally irrelevant defendant attributes and sentence anchors.

Keywords: Common/civil law, judicial decision-making, experiment, comparative law, bias, anchoring, precedent, methodology

JEL Classification: K14, K15, K40

Suggested Citation

Spamann, Holger and Klöhn, Lars and Jamin, Christophe and Khanna, Vikramaditya S. and Liu, John Zhuang and Mamidi, Pavan K and Morell, Alexander and Reidel, Ivan, Judges in the Lab: No Precedent Effects, No Common/Civil Law Differences (October 11, 2020). Harvard Law School John M. Olin Center Discussion Paper No. 1044 (2020), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3700289

Holger Spamann (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

ECGI ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
Rue Ducale 1 Hertogsstraat
1000 Brussels
Belgium

Lars Klöhn

Humboldt University of Berlin - Faculty of Law ( email )

Unter den Linden 6
Berlin, D-10099
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.rewi.hu-berlin.de/en/lf/ls/kln

Christophe Jamin

Sciences Po Law School ( email )

Paris
France

Vikramaditya S. Khanna

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
734-615-6959 (Phone)

John Zhuang Liu

The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen ( email )

Pavan K Mamidi

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Alexander Morell

University of Mannheim ( email )

Universitaetsbibliothek Mannheim
Zeitschriftenabteilung
Mannheim, 68131
Germany

Ivan Reidel

Sinfonik ( email )

4720 Center Boulevard APT. 1504
Long Island City, NY 11109
United States

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