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Pandering Judges

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  • Jordi Blanes i Vidal
  • Clare Leaver
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    Abstract

    Tenured public officials such as judges are often thought to be indifferent to theconcerns of the electorate and, as a result, potentially lacking in discipline butunlikely to pander to public opinion. We investigate this proposition empiricallyusing data on promotion decisions taken by senior English judges between 1985 and2005. Throughout this period the popular view was one of ill-disciplined elitism:senior judges were alleged to be favouring candidates from elite backgrounds overtheir equally capable non-elite counterparts. We find no evidence of such illdiscipline;most of the unconditional difference in promotion prospects between thetwo groups can simply be explained by differences in promotion-relevantcharacteristics. However, exploiting an unexpected proposal to remove control overpromotions from the judiciary, we do find evidence of pandering. When faced by theprospect of losing autonomy, senior judges began to favour non-elite candidates, aswell as candidates who were unconnected to members of the promotion committee.Our finding that tenured public officials can display both the upsides and downsidesof electoral accountability has implications for the literature on political agency, aswell as recent constitutional reforms.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE in its series STICERD - Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers Series with number 002.

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    Date of creation: Sep 2008
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    Handle: RePEc:cep:stieop:002

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    Web page: http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/default.asp

    Related research

    Keywords: Electoral Accountability; Judges; Promotion Decisions;

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    1. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
    2. Christian Schultz, 2003. "Information, Polarization and Delegation in Democracy," CESifo Working Paper Series 1104, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta & Oscar Volij, 2002. "The Measurement of Intellectual Influence," Economic theory and game theory 015, Oscar Volij.
    4. Alberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini, 2007. "Bureaucrats or Politicians? Part I: A Single Policy Task," Levine's Working Paper Archive 321307000000000870, David K. Levine.
    5. Eric Maskin & Jean Tirole, 2004. "The Politician and the Judge: Accountability in Government," Economics Working Papers 0020, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
    6. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1990. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Job Ladders," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages S106-23, January.
    7. Eric Le Borgne & Gauti B. Eggertsson, 2007. "Dynamic Incentives and the Optimal Delegation of Political Power," IMF Working Papers 07/91, International Monetary Fund.
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