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Learning about Judicial Independence: Institutional Change in the State Courts

Listed author(s):
  • F. Andrew Hanssen

There is widespread agreement that an independent judiciary is crucial to the growth of a nation. Yet systematic analysis of the development of independent courts is difficult, because, typically, formal judicial institutions seldom change. Here, I examine a formal judicial institution with substantial cross-sectional and time-series variation to explore: the procedure used to select and retain judges in the American states. Five different procedures emerged over the nation’s history, and all are in use today. I conclude as follows: Each new procedure was developed in order to increase the independence of state judges and was then superseded by a newer procedure, owing in large part to unanticipated agency problems. However, not all states changed procedures when the opportunity arose. States with larger legislative majorities, earlier entrance to the Union, or constitutional amendment requirements were less likely to adopt new procedures.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/421572
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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Legal Studies.

Volume (Year): 33 (2004)
Issue (Month): 2 (06)
Pages: 431-473

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:33:y:2004:p:431-473
DOI: 10.1086/421572
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLS/

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  1. Landes, William M & Posner, Richard A, 1975. "The Independent Judiciary in an Interest-Group Perspective," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 875-901, December.
  2. Edward Glaeser & Simon Johnson & Andrei Shleifer, 2001. "Coase Versus the Coasians," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 853-899.
  3. Ramseyer, J Mark, 1994. "The Puzzling (In)dependence of Courts: A Comparative Approach," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 721-747, June.
  4. Tabarrok, Alexander & Helland, Eric, 1999. "Court Politics: The Political Economy of Tort Awards," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 157-188, April.
  5. McMillan, John & Woodruff, Christopher, 1999. "Dispute Prevention without Courts in Vietnam," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 637-658, October.
  6. Elder, Harold W., 1987. "Property rights structures and criminal courts: An analysis of state criminal courts," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 21-32, June.
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