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

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

U of Michigan Law & Econ Research Paper No. 20-045

127 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2020 Last revised: 29 Jul 2021

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; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Zhuang Liu

The University of Hong Kong - University of Hong Kong

Pavan K Mamidi

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Alexander Morell

Goethe University Frankfurt - Faculty of Law

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, 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), U of Michigan Law & Econ Research Paper No. 20-045, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3700289 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.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)

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

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

Zhuang Liu

The University of Hong Kong - University of Hong Kong ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
China

Pavan K Mamidi

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Alexander Morell

Goethe University Frankfurt - Faculty of Law ( email )

Frankfurt
Germany

Ivan Reidel

Sinfonik ( email )

4720 Center Boulevard
Long Island City, NY 11109
United States

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