Overruling and the Instability of Law
We investigate the evolution of common law under overruling, a system of precedent change in which appellate courts replace existing legal rules with new ones. We use a legal realist model, in which judges change the law to reflect their own preferences or attitudes, but changing the law is costly to them. The model's predictions are consistent with the empirical evidence on the overruling behavior of the U.S. Supreme Court and appellate courts. We find that overruling leads to unstable legal rules that rarely converge to efficiency. The selection of disputes for litigation does not change this conclusion. Our findings provide a rationale for the value of precedent, as well as for the general preference of appellate courts for distinguishing rather than overruling as a law-making strategy.
|Date of creation:||Feb 2007|
|Date of revision:|
|Publication status:||published as Gennaioli, Nicola & Shleifer, Andrei, 2007. "Overruling and the instability of law," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 309-328, June.|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.|
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- Spiller, Pablo T & Tiller, Emerson H, 1997. "Decision Costs and the Strategic Design of Administrative Process and Judicial Review," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(2), pages 347-70, June.
- Gennaioli, Nicola & Shleifer, Andrei, 2007.
"The Evolution of Common Law,"
3451305, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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- La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Pop-Eleches, Cristian & Shleifer, Andrei, 2004. "Judicial Checks and Balances," Scholarly Articles 3451311, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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