Judicial Collegiality, Court Structure, and the Decision to Sit En Banc: Evidence from U.S. District Courts
30 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2004
Date Written: March 2004
In 1988, almost three hundred federal district judges in nearly seventy federal district courts ruled on the constitutionality of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. In fourteen of these districts the judges chose to sit en banc to decide the issue; in the other districts, the judges sat individually instead. By comparing the characteristics of the district courts that sat en banc with those that sat individually, and by interviewing judges who participated in the en banc decisions, this Article empirically examines the significance of many factors that might affect the propensity of district courts to sit en banc. It also provides evidence relevant to other courts, including the effect of court structure and composition on judicial collegiality and the propensity to sit en banc. For example, recent proposals to divide or restructure the Ninth Circuit have been based in part upon the belief that en banc proceedings are impractical in a very large circuit. Among the issues this Article examines are how the number of judges and the geographic distances between judges on a court affect collegiality and the likelihood of sitting en banc.
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