Judicial Compliance in District Courts

46 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2022

See all articles by Daniel L. Chen

Daniel L. Chen

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse School of Economics, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, University of Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France

Jens Frankenreiter

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

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Abstract

Public enforcement of law relies on the use of public agents, such as judges, to follow the law. Are judges motivated only by strategic interests and ideology, as many models posit, rather than a duty to follow the law? We use the random assignment of U.S. Federal judges setting geographically-local precedent to document the causal impact of court decisions in a hierarchical legal system. We examine lower court cases filed before and resolved after higher court decisions and find that lower courts are 29-37% points more likely to rule in the manner of the higher court. The results obtain when the higher court case was decided in the same doctrinal area as the pending case and when the higher court case was decided on the merits. Reversals by the higher court have no significant effects. These results provide clean evidence that judges are motivated to follow the law and are not solely motivated by policy preferences.

Keywords: decision making, motivated reasoning, policy preference, precedent

Suggested Citation

Chen, Daniel L. and Frankenreiter, Jens, Judicial Compliance in District Courts. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4058024 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4058024

Daniel L. Chen (Contact Author)

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse School of Economics, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, University of Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France ( email )

Toulouse School of Economics
1, Esplanade de l'Université
Toulouse, 31080
France

Jens Frankenreiter

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

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