Explaining difference in the quantity of cases heard by courts of last resort

While civil law courts of last resort review up to 90% of appealed cases, common law courts hear as few as 1% of the same petitions. This study postulates that these different policies can be explained by a comparatively larger commitment from common law courts of last resort to judicial law-making rather than judicial uniformity. While law-making courts need to hear few cases to update the law, uniformity courts require a large number of cases to maximize consistency in the lower courts’ interpretation of the law. We show that the optimal number of hearings increases with an increment in the courts’ concern for uniformity. We also show that if hearing costs are linear then the hearing policies of all courts can be classified in only two types. We also predict important changes in hearing policies when the number of petitions increases and we find that hearing rates and reversal disutility operate as two ways in which a legal system can achieve a given level of judicial uniformity

Uneven powers in even-numbered courts: The impact of asymmetric tie-breaking power on judges’ behavior

The behavior of judges in asymmetric tie-breaking power conditions has been barely studied empirically. Most courts are designed as an odd-numbered panel where –theoretically– each judge hold the same probability of deciding the court’s outcome. Accordingly, less attention has been given to the behavior of judges in even-numbered panels where votes’ weight is –by design– distributed unequally among judges. Based on an original database on votes in non-unanimous decisions by a Chilean administrative tribunal formed by 4 judges where its president hold tie-breaking power, this research test whether differences in votes’ weight among judges explain judicial coalition formation, while controlling for the judges’ ideological preferences. In doing so, the study enhance our understanding of the institutional determinants of the judicial decision-making.

Searching for the “Median Judge”: A Study of Coalition Formation in the Third Chamber of the Chilean Supreme Court

This work adapts the traditional methodology of dissent analysis for approaching to the judicial behavior of the Chilean Supreme Court between 2009 and 2013, particularly its Third Section –i.e. public law chamber. Although the high proportion of unanimous decisions (90% of the total) and the huge workload (500 cases per judge) generate limitations, our analysis finds robust coalitions in an environment of variability with over 10 different compositions per year in the same court. Within this period, the behavior of the court seems dominated by the coalition of justices Pierry, Carreño and Araneda, who form the majority when the court splits. Regarding the dissenting justices, the first part of the period features an opposition with Brito, and the second with Muñoz. Whereas both justices appear in a solitary position as the minority, Pierry seems to behave as a “median justice”.