The John M. Olin Center

Paper Abstract

1044. Holger Spamann, Lars Klöhn, Christophe Jamin, Vikramaditya Khanna, John Zhuang Liu, Pavan Mamidi, Alexander Morell & Ivan Reidel, Judges in the Lab: No Precedent Effects, No Common/Civil Law Differences, 11/2020.

Abstract: In our lab, 299 real judges from seven major jurisdictions (Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, USA) spend up to 55 minutes to judge an international criminal appeals case and determine the appropriate prison sentence. The lab computer (1) logs their use of the documents (briefs, statement of facts, trial judgment, statute, precedent), and (2) randomly assigns each judge (i) a horizontal precedent disfavoring, favoring, or strongly favoring defendant, (ii) a sympathetic or an unsympathetic defendant, and (iii) a short, medium, or long sentence anchor. Document use and written reasons differ between countries but not between common and civil law. Precedent effect is barely detectable and estimated to be less, and bounded to be not much greater, than that of legally irrelevant defendant attributes and sentence anchors.

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