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A Theory of Rational Jurisprudence

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  • Scott Baker and Claudio Mezzetti

Abstract

We examine a dynamic model of up-or-down problem solving. A decision maker can either spend resources investigating a new problem before deciding what to do, or decide based on similarity with precedent problems. Over time, a decision making framework, or jurisprudence, develops. We focus on the model?s application to judge-made law. We show that judges summarily apply precedent in some cases. The law may converge to efficient or inefficient rules. With positive probability, identical cases are treated di¤erently. As the court learns over time, inconsistencies become less likely. We discuss the existing empirical evidence and the model?s testable implications.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott Baker and Claudio Mezzetti, 2012. "A Theory of Rational Jurisprudence," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 1144, The University of Melbourne.
  • Handle: RePEc:mlb:wpaper:1144
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Bailey, Martin J. & Rubin, Paul H., 1994. "A positive theory of legal change," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 467-477, December.
    3. Joshua Schwartzstein & Andrei Shleifer, 2013. "An Activity-Generating Theory of Regulation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(1), pages 1-38.
    4. Robert Cooter & Lewis Kornhauser & David Lane, 1979. "Liability Rules, Limited Information, and the Role of Precedent," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 366-373, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. Niblett, Anthony, 2013. "Tracking inconsistent judicial behavior," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 9-20.
    2. Adam B. Badawi & Scott Baker, 2015. "Appellate Lawmaking in a Judicial Hierarchy," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58(1), pages 139-172.
    3. Chen, Daniel L., 2016. "Priming Ideology: Why Presidential Elections Affect U.S. Judges," TSE Working Papers 16-681, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Aug 2016.
    4. Luca Anderlini & Leonardo Felli & Alessandro Riboni, 2014. "Why Stare Decisis?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 17(4), pages 726-738, October.
    5. Elliott Ash, W. Bentley MacLeod, . "Intrinsic Motivation in Public Service: Theory and Evidence from State Supreme Courts," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58(4).
    6. Giorgio Rampa & Margherita Saraceno, 2014. "Beliefs and Precedent: The Dynamics of Access to Justice," DEM Working Papers Series 084, University of Pavia, Department of Economics and Management.
    7. Giovanni Maggi & Robert W. Staiger, 2017. "Learning by Ruling and Trade Disputes," NBER Working Papers 23774, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Chen, Ying & Eraslan, Hulya, 2018. "Learning While Setting Precedents," Working Papers 18-001, Rice University, Department of Economics.
    9. Scott Baker & Gary Biglaiser, 2014. "A Model of Cause Lawyering," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(1), pages 37-63.
    10. Daniel L. Chen, 2015. "Can markets stimulate rights? On the alienability of legal claims," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 46(1), pages 23-65, March.
    11. Ying Chen & Hulya Eraslan, 2018. "Learning While Setting Precedents," Koç University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum Working Papers 1810, Koc University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum.
    12. Sean Farhang & Jonathan P. Kastellec & Gregory J. Wawro, 2015. "The Politics of Opinion Assignment and Authorship on the US Court of Appeals: Evidence from Sexual Harassment Cases," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(S1), pages 59-85.
    13. Jacobi, Tonja & Kontorovich, Eugene, 2015. "Why judges always vote," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 190-199.
    14. Anthony Niblett, 2013. "Case-by-Case Adjudication and the Path of the Law," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(2), pages 303-330.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Law and Economics; Incompleteness of Law; Judge-Made Law; Evolution;

    JEL classification:

    • K10 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - General (Constitutional Law)
    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General

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