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Empirical Study of the Civil Justice System

In: Handbook of Law and Economics


  • Kessler, Daniel P.
  • Rubinfeld, Daniel L.


In this essay, we discuss empirical research on the economic effects of the civil justice system. We discuss research on the effects of three substantive bodies of law--contracts, torts, and property--and research on the effects of the litigation process. We begin with a review of studies of aggregate empirical trends and the important issues involving contracts and torts, both positive and normative. We survey some of the more interesting empirical issues, and we conclude with some suggestions for future work. Because studies involving property law are so divergent, there is no simple description of aggregates that adequately characterizes the subject. In its place, we offer an overview of a number of the most important issues of interest. We describe (selectively) the current state of empirical knowledge, and offer some suggestions for future work. The section on legal process builds on the previous substantive sections. With respect each of the steps, from violation to trial to appeal, we review some of the more important empirical contributions.

Suggested Citation

  • Kessler, Daniel P. & Rubinfeld, Daniel L., 2007. "Empirical Study of the Civil Justice System," Handbook of Law and Economics, in: A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell (ed.), Handbook of Law and Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 5, pages 343-402, Elsevier.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:lawchp:1-05

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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Dari-Mattiacci, Giuseppe & Langlais, Eric, 2012. "Social Wealth and Optimal Care," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 271-284.
    2. MacLeod, W. Bentley, 2011. "Great Expectations: Law, Employment Contracts, and Labor Market Performance," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 18, pages 1591-1696, Elsevier.
    3. Shteryo Nozharov & Petya Koralova – Nozharova, 2018. "Transaction Costs and Institutional Change of Trade Litigations in Bulgaria," Nauchni trudove, University of National and World Economy, Sofia, Bulgaria, issue 3, pages 123-133, July.
    4. Álvaro Bustos, 2020. "How Does Court Stability Affect Legal Stability?," Documentos de Trabajo 535, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
    5. Danielle Venn, 2009. "Legislation, Collective Bargaining and Enforcement: Updating the OECD Employment Protection Indicators," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 89, OECD Publishing.
    6. Virginia Rosales & Dolores Jiménez-Rubio, 2017. "Empirical analysis of civil litigation determinants: The Case of Spain," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 44(2), pages 321-338, October.
    7. Álvaro Bustos & Pablo Bravo-Hurtado & Antonio Aninat, 2020. "The (Other) Effects of Restricting Access to Higher Courts: The Case of Wrongful Terminations in Labor Contracts in Chile," Documentos de Trabajo 534, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
    8. Dari-Mattiacci, Giuseppe & Deffains, Bruno & Lovat, Bruno, 2011. "The dynamics of the legal system," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 95-107.
    9. Ity Shurtz, 2014. "Malpractice Law, Physicians' Financial Incentives, and Medical Treatment: How Do They Interact?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(1), pages 1-29.
    10. Fernando Gómez & Anna Ginès-Fabrellas & Ignacio Marín-García, 2009. "The State in Court: the economic effects of fee-shifting rules in Spain when suing the government," Portuguese Economic Journal, Springer;Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestao, vol. 8(3), pages 183-203, December.
    11. Metin Coşgel & Hamdi Genç & Emre Özer & Sadullah Yıldırım, 2022. "Gender and Justice: The Status of Women in Ottoman Courts," Working papers 2022-03, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    12. Steven G. Medema, 2020. "The Coase Theorem at Sixty," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 58(4), pages 1045-1128, December.
    13. Jessica Bregant & Alex Shaw & Katherine D. Kinzler, 2016. "Intuitive Jurisprudence: Early Reasoning About the Functions of Punishment," Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 13(4), pages 693-717, December.

    More about this item


    civil justice; civil litigation; empirical; contract; tort; property; litigation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • K - Law and Economics


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