The Effect of Electoral Institutions on Tort Awards
Posted: 29 Feb 2008
We argue that partisan elected judges have an incentive to redistribute wealth from out-of-state defendants (nonvoters) to in-state plaintiffs (voters). We first test the hypothesis by using cross-state data. We find a significant partisan effect after controlling for differences in injuries, state incomes, poverty levels, selection effects, and other factors. One difference that appears difficult to control for is that each state has its own tort law. In cases involving citizens of different states, federal judges decide disputes by using state law. Using these diversity-of-citizenship cases, we conclude that differences in awards are caused by differences in electoral systems, not by differences in state law.
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