Judging fast or slow: The effects of reduced caseloads on gender- and ethnic-based disparities in case outcomes

Tamar Kricheli-Katz, Keren Weinshall*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

What is the effect of caseload volume on case outcome disparities based on a litigant's gender or ethnicity? This paper presents three nonexclusive mechanisms to explain possible effects. The first mechanism relates to a litigant's inclination to settle or withdraw claims; the second mechanism concerns the strategic preemption of appeals by judges; and the third mechanism relates to the implicit biases of judges. To document the effect and test the mechanisms, we exploited a natural, near-randomized experiment in the Israeli judicial framework. In 2012, six senior registrars were appointed to two of the country's six magistrate court districts. The choice of districts was not related to judicial performance. In these two districts, the civil caseload per judge was substantially reduced. We find that while this reduced caseload had a significant impact on the judicial process for all litigants, it had a particularly salient and beneficial effect on outcomes for female and Arab plaintiffs. The exogenous reduction in court caseloads was associated with positive effects for female Jewish plaintiffs in terms of the likelihood of winning the claim, recovery amount (from the claim), and cost-shifting outcomes. The change was also associated with positive effects for Arab female plaintiffs in terms of the likelihood of winning the claim and the recovery amount (from the claim). Finally, the reduction in caseloads was associated with a positive effect for Arab male plaintiffs in terms of the fraction of the claim that was recovered. Our findings suggest that when judges are able to invest more time and resources in resolving individual cases, they tend to be less influenced by stereotypes about gender and ethnicity. We discuss the contribution of our findings to the literature on judicial bias and the implications for different policies designed to reduce or manage congested courts.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)961-1004
Number of pages44
JournalJournal of Empirical Legal Studies
Volume20
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies published by Cornell Law School and Wiley Periodicals LLC.

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