The Performance of Elected Officials: Evidence from State Supreme Courts

Elliott Ash (Princeton University)
W. Bentley MacLeod (Columbia University)

Abstract : This paper exploits the variation in how U.S. state supreme court judges are appointed and retained to measure the effect of these changes upon performance using a panel of all judicial opinions written between 1947 and 1994. We find evidence of both incentive and selection effects due to electoral procedures. Election-year politics reduces the output of judges in non-partisan elections, but not in partisan elections or uncontested elections. Moving from non-partisan elections to uncontested elections causes incumbent judges to improve work quality, while moving from partisan to uncontested elections has no effect on this choice. Judges selected by technocratic merit commissions produce higher-quality work than either partisan-elected judges or non-partisan-elected judges. These results are consistent with the view that technocratic merit commissions have better information about judge quality than voters, and that political bias can reduce the quality of officials selected.

Performance Pay and Judicial Production: Evidence from Spain

Manuel Bagues (Aalto University)
Berta Esteve-Volart (York University)

Abstract : This paper analyzes the impact of the introduction of a performance pay scheme rewarding Spanish judges. The Spanish top judicial authority established modules of production for every task judges undertake and then calculated production benchmarks. Since 2004, judges were awarded a 5% bonus if production exceeded the benchmark by 20%. We find that the introduction of this scheme increased the number of judges exceeding this threshold, and also increased average production. Nevertheless, we also observe that, consistent with a potential deterioration of intrinsic motivation, top performing judges significantly reduced their production.

Division of Labor: Theory and Evidence from Judges

Decio Coviello (HEC)
Andrea Ichino (EUI)
Nicola Persico (Northwestern)

Abstract : We estimate the benefits of specialization for judges. We use the random allocation of cases to judges to estimate the causal effect of specialization on the hazard of closing a case and the probability of appeal. We estimate that there are considerable gains from specialization. More specialized judges have higher hazard of closing a case at any point in time. We then estimate whether or not specialization may reduce quality of decisions, and provide evidence that specialization does not increase appeal rates reducing quality. Our evidence is compatible with a model of judicial specialization and productivity and suggests that there are large gains from specialization in judicial decisions.