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Explaining Difference in the Quantity of Cases Heard by Courts of Last Resort


  • Bravo-Hurtado Pablo
  • Álvaro Bustos


While civil law courts of last resort—e.g., cassation courts in France, Italy, and Chile—review up to 90% of appealed cases, common law courts of last resort—e.g., supreme courts of the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada—hear as few as 1% of the same petitions. In this study, we postulate that these different policies can be explained by a comparatively larger commitment from common law courts of last resort to judicial law-making rather than judicial uniformity. While courts require few hearings to update the law (in theory one decision is sufficient), they need a large number of hearings to maximize consistency in the lower courts’ interpretation of the law. We show that the optimal number of hearings increases with an increment in the courts’ concern for uniformity. We also show that if hearing costs are linear then the hearing policies of all courts can be classified in only two types. In addition, we predict important changes in hearing policies when the number of petitions increases. Finally, we find that hearing rates and reversal disutility operate as two ways in which a legal system can achieve a given level of judicial uniformity.

Suggested Citation

  • Bravo-Hurtado Pablo & Álvaro Bustos, 2019. "Explaining Difference in the Quantity of Cases Heard by Courts of Last Resort," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(2), pages 346-393.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:21:y:2019:i:2:p:346-393.

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