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Essays on the economics of judicial independence and the effectiveness of criminal defense

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Title: Essays on the economics of judicial independence and the effectiveness of criminal defense
Author(s): Abbasi, Hossein A.
Director of Research: Ulen, Thomas S.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Ulen, Thomas S.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Esfahani, Hadi S.; Bera, Anil K.; Garoupa, Nuno
Department / Program: Economics
Discipline: Economics
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Judiciary Judicial Independence Judicial Selection Methods Merit Plan Public Defender System
Abstract: In this study I provide an empirical analysis of the judicial system. The main emphasis of this study is on the causes and consequences of judicial independence. In the first chapter, I analyze the determinants of judicial independence in a cross-country setting. I investigate the empirical evidence for two hypotheses about the conditions for judicial independence: institutional protection and political competition. Using a new set of indicators from constitutions of countries, I show that there is no evidence for a significant effect of institutional rules on judicial independence. A panel data analysis shows a significant effect of political competition on judicial independence. This effect holds after including country-specific fixed effects, using instrumental variables to address the issue of reverse causality, and controlling for persistence in judicial independence and mean-reverting dynamics. The second chapter examines the relative merits of judicial selection methods in the American states. The conventional wisdom holds that appointive judges act differently from elected judges, because they are more independent and are less vulnerable to public pressure. Existing theories suggest that appointive systems create more uncertainty; therefore, one should expect higher litigation rates in these systems. Those theories also suggest that public pressure forces elected judges to be more productive. Using time-series data on litigation rates and opinions, I investigate the impact of switching in selection methods on judicial behavior. I use tests of structural break, with both known and unknown dates, to examine whether a switch from elective and appointive systems to a merit selection causes a structural regime change. I evaluate the results using asymptotic results in the literature as well as with Monte Carlo analysis. My results contradict the existing theories. A change in selection method causes a regime change, but the direction of the change is not consistent with the predictions of the theory. For example, the litigation rates in Connecticut increased after switching to merit plan, whereas the litigation rates in New Mexico dropped. Moreover, I find that adopting a merit plan significantly reduces the number of opinions written by the Supreme Court justices, though some exceptions exist. All together, I conclude that the switch in the selection method affects the behavior of both judges and litigants. The effects on the behavior of the judges are stronger than the impact on the behavior of potential litigants. The third chapter studies the behavior of publicly financed defenders in federal criminal cases. Public defender organizations represent the majority of state and federal criminal defendants. The empirical literature on the relative virtues of publicly financed lawyers and private lawyers is inconclusive. In this paper, I use data on federal criminal cases to examine the performance of publicly financed defenders. I find that publicly financed defenders, on average, spend less time on their cases and achieve worse outcomes for their clients, relative to private lawyers. But these results vanish when I examine each group of frequent offenses separately. Public defenders achieve better outcomes in terms of time and sentence length in simple cases. In complicated cases, public defenders lose their advantages, and their clients receive higher sentence time. Unlike the existing literature, I find that neither the public defender, nor the private lawyer has an absolute advantage. Several factors, including complication of cases, type of defendants, and workload of defenders, determine the results. These factors affect the results via their effect on the extent of asymmetric information between defenders, defenders, and prosecutors.
Issue Date: 2010-01-06
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/14697
Rights Information: Copyright 2009 Hossein A. Abbasi
Date Available in IDEALS: 2010-01-06
2012-01-07
Date Deposited: December 2
 

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