The John M. Olin Center

Paper Abstract

1015. Daniel Klerman & Holger Spamann, Law Matters–Less Than We Thought, 01/2021.

Abstract: In a pre-registered 2×2×2 factorial between-subject randomized lab experiment with 61 federal judges, we test if the law influences judicial decisions, if it does so more under a rule than under a standard, and how its influence compares to that of legally irrelevant sympathies. The judges were given realistic materials and a relatively long period of time (50 minutes) to decide a run-of-the-mill auto accident case. We find weak evidence that the law matters, stronger evidence that rules constrain more than standards, and no evidence of a sympathy effect. Unexpectedly, we find that many judges opted for full compensation even when the law would seem to require a cap on damages.

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