Is Antitrust Too Complicated for Generalist Judges? The Impact of Economic Complexity and Judicial Training on Appeals
Modern antitrust litigation sometimes involves complex expert economic and econometric analysis. While this boom in the demand for economic analysis and expert testimony has clearly improved the welfare of economists—and schools offering basic economic training to judges—little is known about the empirical effects of economic complexity or judges' economic training on decision-making in antitrust litigation. We use a unique data set on antitrust litigation in district courts during 1996—2006 to examine whether economic complexity impacts decisions in antitrust cases, and thereby provide a novel test of the frequently asserted hypothesis that antitrust analysis has become too complex for generalist judges. We also examine the impact of one institutional response to economic complexity - basic economic training by judges. We find that decisions involving the evaluation of complex economic evidence are significantly more likely to be appealed, and decisions of judges trained in basic economics are significantly less likely to be appealed than are decisions by their untrained counterparts. Our results are robust to a variety of controls, including the type of case, circuit, and the political party of the judge. Our tentative conclusion, based on a revealed preference argument that views a party’s appeal decision as an indication that the district court got the economics wrong, is that there is support for the hypothesis that some antitrust cases are too complicated for generalist judges.
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