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Does Law Matter? Theory and Evidence from Single-Subject Adjudication

  • Michael D. Gilbert
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    Empirical studies have examined the effects of law and politics on judicial decision making, but many legal scholars are dissatisfied with how these studies account for law. This paper provides a novel survey technique for measuring law. I demonstrate this technique by examining judicial decision making in cases involving the single-subject rule. The rule limits ballot propositions to one "subject," a standard that vests judges with some discretion. Measures of law developed with the surveys strongly predict judges' votes in single-subject cases. Moving from the proposition in the sample with the lowest subject count to the one with the highest is associated with a 78-percentage-point increase in the likelihood of a judge finding a violation of the rule. Measures of ideology also predict judges' votes, especially when propositions are politically salient and when the law is indeterminate.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/660839
    Download Restriction: Access to the online full text or PDF requires a subscription.

    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/660839
    Download Restriction: Access to the online full text or PDF requires a subscription.

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

    Volume (Year): 40 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 333 - 365

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    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:doi:10.1086/660839
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLS/

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    1. Ashenfelter, Orley & Eisenberg, Theodore & Schwab, Stewart J, 1995. "Politics and the Judiciary: The Influence of Judicial Background on Case Outcomes," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 257-81, June.
    2. Joshua D. Angrist & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 2009. "Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist's Companion," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 8769, 06-2016.
    3. Ai, Chunrong & Norton, Edward C., 2003. "Interaction terms in logit and probit models," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 123-129, July.
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