Judicial Effort and the Appeals System: Theory and Experiment

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We investigate theoretically and experimentally how the existence of an appeals system influences the judicial effort of judges in trial courts. We assume that judges care about correct decisions and face reputational losses in case of reversals by an appeals court. Our model suggests that the impact of appeals depends crucially on the degree with which the appeals court’s accuracy increases in the trial judge’s effort. Appeals yield higher levels of effort if this effect is strong, and effort is then increasing in the trial judge’s preferences for correct outcomes. Our experimental findings underline the positive impacts of reputational losses, the endogeneity of the appeals court’s accuracy, and social concerns, which we measure by several proxies. We argue that our findings are useful for comparison of the appeals process in civil-law systems with common-law systems.

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