An Economic Analysis of Judicial Doctrine

Isaac DiIanni

Advisor: Richard E Wagner, PhD, Department of Economics

Carow Hall, Conf. Room
April 24, 2007, 08:00 PM to 07:00 PM


This dissertation presents a diverse selection of economic approaches to analyzing the determinants of judicial doctrine. First, I conduct an analysis of the American legal system primarily using two tools of economics: agency theory and the concept of bureaucratic free enterprise. I argue that despite significant differences at the level of nominal appearance, there is a fundamental similarity between federal administrative agencies and the federal judiciary. Next, I attempt a systematic examination of several institutional elements present in different legal systems, including both monopoly and competitive systems, and use this analysis to explain their impact on doctrinal bias through the incentives they provide to judges. The final chapter, instead of focusing on the behavior of judges, or their interactions with members of the elected branches, focuses on the behavior of litigants. I show that even without rent-seeking, changes in litigant behavior in response to a greater interest in precedent can interfere with the evolution of common law precedent towards efficient rules.