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Why Is the Japanese Conviction Rate So High?

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  • Ramseyer, J Mark
  • Rasmusen, Eric B

Abstract

Conviction rates in Japan exceed 99 percent. Because Japanese judges can be penalized by a personnel office if they rule in ways the office dislikes, perhaps they face biased incentives to convict. Using data on the careers and opinions of 321 Japanese judges, we find that judges who acquit do have worse careers following the acquittal. On closer examination, though, we find that the punished judges are not those who acquit on the ground that the prosecutors charged the wrong person. Rather, they acquit for reasons of statutory or constitutional interpretation, often in politically charged cases. Thus, the apparent punishment seems unrelated to any pro-conviction bias at the judicial administrative offices. We suggest an alternative explanation: the high conviction rates reflect case selection and low prosecutorial budgets; understaffed prosecutors present judges with only the most obviously guilty defendants. Copyright 2001 by the University of Chicago.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Legal Studies.

Volume (Year): 30 (2001)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 53-88

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:30:y:2001:i:1:p:53-88

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Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLS/

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Cited by:
  1. repec:clg:wpaper:2009-05 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Huang, Kuo-Chang & Chen, Kong-Pin & Lin, Chang-Ching, 2010. "Does the type of criminal defense counsel affect case outcomes?: A natural experiment in Taiwan," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 113-127, June.
  3. Steeve Mongrain & Joanne Roberts, 2007. "Plea Bargaining with Budgetary Constraints," Working Papers dp07-07, CRABE, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
  4. Mark Ramseyer, 2009. "Convictions versus Conviction Rates: The Prosecutor's Choice," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 47-78.
  5. J. Mark Ramseyer & Eric B. Rasmusen, 2001. "When are Judges and Bureaucrats Left Independent? Theory and History from Imperial Japan, Postwar Japan, and the United States," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-126, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
  6. Lars P. Feld & Stefan Voigt, 2004. "Making Judges Independent – Some Proposals Regarding the Judiciary," CESifo Working Paper Series 1260, CESifo Group Munich.
  7. Pushkar Maitra & Russell Smyth, 2004. "Judicial Independence, Judicial Promotion and the Enforcement of Legislative Wealth Transfers—An Empirical Study of the New Zealand High Court," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 17(2), pages 209-235, March.
  8. Padovano, Fabio & Fiorino, Nadia, 2012. "Strategic delegation and “judicial couples” in the Italian Constitutional Court," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 215-223.
  9. Manu Raghav, 2006. "Why do budgets received by state prosecutors vary across districts in the United States?," Caepr Working Papers 2006-018, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington.
  10. Martin Schneider, 2005. "Judicial Career Incentives and Court Performance: An Empirical Study of the German Labour Courts of Appeal," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 127-144, September.

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