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Why Is the Japanese Conviction Rate So High?

Author

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  • Ramseyer, J Mark
  • Rasmusen, Eric B

Abstract

Conviction rates in Japan exceed 99 percent. Because Japanese judges can be penalized by a personnel office if they rule in ways the office dislikes, perhaps they face biased incentives to convict. Using data on the careers and opinions of 321 Japanese judges, we find that judges who acquit do have worse careers following the acquittal. On closer examination, though, we find that the punished judges are not those who acquit on the ground that the prosecutors charged the wrong person. Rather, they acquit for reasons of statutory or constitutional interpretation, often in politically charged cases. Thus, the apparent punishment seems unrelated to any pro-conviction bias at the judicial administrative offices. We suggest an alternative explanation: the high conviction rates reflect case selection and low prosecutorial budgets; understaffed prosecutors present judges with only the most obviously guilty defendants. Copyright 2001 by the University of Chicago.

Suggested Citation

  • Ramseyer, J Mark & Rasmusen, Eric B, 2001. "Why Is the Japanese Conviction Rate So High?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(1), pages 53-88, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:30:y:2001:i:1:p:53-88
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/468111
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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. Mongrain, Steeve & Roberts, Joanne, 2009. "Plea bargaining with budgetary constraints," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 8-12, March.
    3. Nakao Keisuke & Tsumagari Masatoshi, 2012. "Discretionary vs. Mandatory Prosecution: A Game-Theoretic Approach to Comparative Criminal Procedure," Asian Journal of Law and Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-14, October.
    4. 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.
    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. 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.
    7. Christmann, Robin, 2018. "Prosecution and Conviction under Hindsight Bias in Adversary Legal Systems," MPRA Paper 84870, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. 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.
    9. Fiorino, Nadia & Gavoille, Nicolas & Padovano, Fabio, 2015. "Rewarding judicial independence: Evidence from the Italian Constitutional Court," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 56-66.
    10. Manu Raghav, 2006. "Why do budgets received by state prosecutors vary across districts in the United States?," Caepr Working Papers 2006-018, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington.
    11. Lars P. Feld & Stefan Voigt, 2004. "Making Judges Independent – Some Proposals Regarding the Judiciary," CESifo Working Paper Series 1260, CESifo Group Munich.
    12. repec:clg:wpaper:2009-05 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • J44 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Professional Labor Markets and Occupations
    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • N45 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Asia including Middle East

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