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Why Do Courts Delay?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2022

Deborah Beim
Affiliation:
Yale University
Tom S. Clark*
Affiliation:
Emory University
John W. Patty
Affiliation:
University of Chicago
*
Contact the corresponding author, Tom Clark, at tom.clark@emory.edu.

Abstract

Answering one question often begets another. We present a decision-theoretic model that describes how this affects the sequencing of decisions over time. Because answering an easy question may raise a more difficult one, a rational judge may delay resolution even if he has perfect information about the correct decision. Furthermore, because otherwise unrelated questions may raise similar follow-ups, he may optimally clump decisions together. Our theory thus generates an endogenous economy of scale in dispute resolution and contributes to the literature on punctuated equilibrium theory. We illustrate the results of our model with a case study from legal history in the United States.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2017 by Law and Courts Organized Section of the American Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

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Footnotes

We thank Chuck Cameron, Cliff Carrubba, Mike Giles, Adam Glynn, Lewis Kornhauser, Jon Nash, Jeff Staton, Tom Walker, and seminar participants at Emory University, Princeton University, Yale University, the University of Georgia, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse for helpful comments and discussions. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association and the 2015 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association under the title “Sequential Adjudication.”

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