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Judicial Independence in Civil Law Regimes: Econometrics from Japan

  • J. Mark Ramseyer

    (University of Chicago Law School)

  • Eric B. Rasmusen

    (Indiana University School of Business)

Because civil-law systems hire unproven jurists into career judiciaries, many maintain elaborate incentive structures to prevent their judges from shirking. We use personnel data (backgrounds, judicial decisions, job postings) on 275 Japanese judges to explore general determinants of career success and to test how extensively politicians manipulate career incentives for political ends. We find strong evidence that the judicial system rewards the smartest and most productive judges. Contrary to some observers, we find no evidence of on-going school cliques, and no evidence that the system favors judges who mediate over those who adjudicate. More controversially, we locate three politically driven phenomena. First, even as late as the 1980's, judges who joined a prominent leftist organization in the 1960's were receiving less attractive jobs. Second, judges who decided a high percentage of cases against the government early in their careers were still receiving less attractive jobs than their peers in 1980s. Finally, whenever a judge decided a case against the government, he incurred a significant risk that the government would soon punish him with a less attractive post.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Public Economics with number 9603001.

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Date of creation: 12 Mar 1996
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Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwppe:9603001
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  1. Ramseyer, J Mark, 1994. "The Puzzling (In)dependence of Courts: A Comparative Approach," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 721-47, June.
  2. Rasmusen, E., 1993. "Judicial Legitimacy as a Repeated Game," Papers 93-017, Indiana - Center for Econometric Model Research.
  3. George L. Priest & Benjamin Klein, 1984. "The Selection of Disputes for Litigation," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(1), pages 1-56, January.
  4. William M. Landes & Richard A. Posner, 1975. "The Independent Judiciary in an Interest-Group Perspective," NBER Working Papers 0110, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Cohen, Mark A, 1991. "Explaining Judicial Behavior or What's "Unconstitutional" about the Sentencing Commission?," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(1), pages 183-99, Spring.
  6. Anderson, Gary M & Shughart, William F, II & Tollison, Robert D, 1989. "On the Incentives of Judges to Enforce Legislative Wealth Transfers," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(1), pages 215-28, April.
  7. Toma, Eugenia Froedge, 1991. "Congressional Influence and the Supreme Court: The Budget as a Signaling Device," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(1), pages 131-46, January.
  8. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
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