Congress and the political expansion of the U.S. districts courts

Posted: 29 Feb 2008  

John M. de Figueiredo

Duke University School of Law; Duke University - Fuqua School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative

Gerald S. Gryski

Auburn University - Department of Political Science

Gary Zuk

Auburn University - Department of Political Science

Emerson H. Tiller

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law

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Abstract

Expanding the number of U.S. district judgeships is often justified as a response to expanding caseloads. Increasing judgeships during unified government, however, allows Congress and the President to engage in political (patronage and ideological) control of the federal district courts. This paper examines empirically the relative importance of caseload pressure and political motives for Congress to expand the number of federal district judgeships. We demonstrate that politics dominates the timing of judgeship expansion in the U.S. District Courts. We also show that both politics and caseload affect the actual size of those timed expansions. In particular, we find that before 1970, Congress seemed to have strong political motivations for the size of an expansion. After 1970, Congress became much more attentive to caseload considerations.

Suggested Citation

de Figueiredo, John M. and Gryski, Gerald S. and Zuk, Gary and Tiller, Emerson H., Congress and the political expansion of the U.S. districts courts. American Law and Economics Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 107-125, 2000. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=874165

John M. De Figueiredo (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative

215 Morris St., Suite 300
Durham, NC 27701
United States

Gerald S. Gryski (Contact Author)

Auburn University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Auburn, AL 36849
United States
(334) 844-5370 (Phone)

Gary Zuk (Contact Author)

Auburn University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Auburn, AL 36849
United States
(334) 844-5370 (Phone)

Emerson H. Tiller

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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