Television and Judicial Behavior: Lessons from the Brazilian Supreme Court

Felipe Lopes (São Paulo School of Economics - FGV)

Abstract: While much research has gone into determining the broader effects of judicial transparency, the literature is silent in investigating its effects on judicial behavior. This article explores a unique aspect of the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF); that its deliberations have been broadcast live on television since 2002, to investigate the behavioral effects of an increase in judicial transparency. I construct a novel database consisting of abstract constitutional review cases judged by the STF between 1988 and 2015 and employ a research design seldom used in the judicial behavior literature – Differences-in-Differences – to test empirically the effects of television on judicial behavior. The main result is that STF justices behave as politicians: when given free television time, they act to maximize their individual exposure. They achieve that by writing longer votes and by engaging in more discussions with their peers.

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