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The Effect of Judicial Independence on Courts: Evidence from the American States

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  • Daniel Berkowitz
  • Karen Clay

Abstract

This paper demonstrates that two initial conditions—having been settled by a country with a civil-law legal system (France, Spain, or Mexico) and membership in the Confederacy during the Civil War—have had lasting effects on state courts in the United States. We find that states initially settled by civil-law countries and states in the Confederacy granted less independence to their judiciary in 1970–90 and had lower-quality courts in 2001–3. Furthermore, judicial independence is strongly associated with court quality. To explain these findings, we hypothesize that civil law acted through legislator preferences regarding the balance of power between the legislature and the judiciary, with legislators in civil-law states preferring a more subordinate judiciary. The ability of civil-law legislators to act on these preferences was, however, affected by within-state political competition, which was much higher in northern states than in southern states after the Civil War.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Berkowitz & Karen Clay, 2006. "The Effect of Judicial Independence on Courts: Evidence from the American States," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(2), pages 399-440, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:35:y:2006:p:399-440
    DOI: 10.1086/505052
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Zhang, Jianhua & Wang, Peng & Qu, Baozhi, 2012. "Bank risk taking, efficiency, and law enforcement: Evidence from Chinese city commercial banks," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 284-295.
    3. Pauline Grosjean, 2011. "A History of Violence: The Culture of Honor as a Determinant of Homicide in the US South," Discussion Papers 2011-13, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
    4. Chemin, Matthieu, 2009. "Do judiciaries matter for development? Evidence from India," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 230-250, June.
    5. Chad Turner & Robert Tamura & Sean Mulholland, 2013. "How important are human capital, physical capital and total factor productivity for determining state economic growth in the United States, 1840–2000?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 18(4), pages 319-371, December.
    6. Haitian Lu, Hongbo Pan, Chenying Zhang, . "Political Connectedness and Court Outcomes: Evidence from Chinese Corporate Lawsuits," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58(4).
    7. Dove, John A., 2015. "The effect of judicial independence on entrepreneurship in the US states," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 72-96.
    8. repec:bla:pbudge:v:37:y:2017:i:3:p:24-46 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Benedikt Goderis & Mila Versteeg, 2012. "Human Rights Violations after 9/11 and the Role of Constitutional Constraints," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(1), pages 131-164.
    10. Du, Julan & Lu, Yi & Tao, Zhigang, 2012. "Contracting institutions and vertical integration: Evidence from China’s manufacturing firms," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 89-107.
    11. Andrei Shleifer & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Rafael La Porta, 2008. "The Economic Consequences of Legal Origins," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(2), pages 285-332, June.
    12. Grosjean, Pauline, 2011. "The institutional legacy of the Ottoman Empire: Islamic rule and financial development in South Eastern Europe," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 1-16, March.
    13. Ma, Yue & Qu, Baozhi & Zhang, Yifan, 2010. "Judicial quality, contract intensity and trade: Firm-level evidence from developing and transition countries," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 146-159, June.
    14. Sukkoo Kim, 2007. "Institutions and U.S. Regional Development: A Study of Massachusetts and Virginia," NBER Working Papers 13431, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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