Overruling and the instability of law
We investigate the evolution of common law under overruling, a system of precedent change in which appellate courts replace existing legal rules with new ones. We use a legal realist model, in which judges change the law to reflect their own preferences or attitudes, but changing the law is costly to them. The model's predictions are consistent with the empirical evidence on the overruling behavior of the U.S. Supreme Court and appellate courts. We find that overruling leads to unstable legal rules that rarely converge to efficiency. The selection of disputes for litigation does not change this conclusion. Our findings provide a rationale for the value of precedent, as well as for the general preference of appellate courts for distinguishing rather than overruling as a law-making strategy.
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- Rafael LaPorta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silane & Cristian Pop-Eleches & Andrei Shleifer, 2003.
"Judicial Checks and Balances,"
NBER Working Papers
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Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 43-68.
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- Schwartz, Edward P, 1992. "Policy, Precedent, and Power: A Positive Theory of Supreme Court Decision-Making," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(2), pages 219-52, April.
- Spiller, Pablo T & Tiller, Emerson H, 1997. "Decision Costs and the Strategic Design of Administrative Process and Judicial Review," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(2), pages 347-370, June.
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