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Why Is the Japanese Conviction Rate So High?

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Author Info

  • J. Mark Ramseyer

    (Harvard Law School)

  • Eric Rasmusen

    (Indiana University)

Abstract

Conviction rates in Japan exceed 99 percent -- why? On the one hand, because Japanese prosecutors are badly understaffed they may prosecute only their strongest cases and present judges only with the most obviously guilty defendants. On the other, because Japanese judges can be reassigned by the administrative office of the courts if they rule in ways the office does not like, judges may face biased career incentives to convict. Using data on the careers and opinions of 321 Japanese judges, we conclude that judges who acquit do indeed have worse careers following the acquittal. On closer examination, though, we find that the punished judges are not judges who acquitted on the ground that the prosecutors charged the wrong person. Rather, they are the judges who acquitted for reasons of statutory or constitutional interpretation, often in politically charged cases. Thus, the apparent punishment of acquitting judges seems unrelated to any pro-conviction bias at the judicial administrative offices, and the high conviction rates probably reflect low prosecutorial budgets instead.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Law and Economics with number 9907001.

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Date of creation: 12 Jul 1999
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Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwple:9907001

Note: Type of Document - PDF; prepared on Wintel 95; to print on ;
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Web page: http://128.118.178.162

Related research

Keywords: Japan; judges; political economy; prosecutors; convictions;

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Cited by:
  1. 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.
  2. Steeve Mongrain, 2008. "Plea Bargaining with Budgetary Constraints," Working Papers 2008-06, Department of Economics, University of Calgary, revised 29 Jan 2008.
  3. Manu Raghav, 2006. "Why do budgets received by state prosecutors vary across districts in the United States?," Caepr Working Papers, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington 2006-018, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington.
  4. Lars P. Feld & Stefan Voigt, 2004. "Making Judges Independent – Some Proposals Regarding the Judiciary+," Marburg Working Papers on Economics, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung) 200429, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
  5. Eric Rasmusen & Manu Raghav & 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.
  6. repec:clg:wpaper:2009-05 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  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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