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JUSTICE WITHOUT ROMANCE: THE HISTORY OF THE ECONOMIC ANALYSES OF JUDGES’ BEHAVIOR, 1960–1993

  • Alain Marciano, Alessandro Melcarne and Giovanni B. Ramello

Abstract

Richard Posner’s “What Do Judges and Justices Maximize?” (1993b) is not, as usually believed, the first analysis of judges’ behaviors made by using the assumption that judges are rational and maximize a utility function. That analysis arrived at the end of a rather long process. This paper recounts the history of this process, from the “birth” of law and economics in the 1960s to 1993. We show that economic analyses of judges’ behavior were introduced in the early 1970s under the pen of Posner. At that time, rationality was not modeled in terms of utility maximization. Utility maximization came later. We also show that rationality and incentives were introduced to explain the efficiency of common law. Around this theme, a controversy took place that led Posner and other economists to postpone their analysis of judicial behavior until the 1990s. By then, the situation had changed. New and conclusive evidence of judges’ utility maximizing behavior demanded a general theory to be expressed. In addition, the context was favorable to Chicago economists. It was time for Posner to publish his article.

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Alain Marciano: MRE and University of Montpellier; Alessandro Melcarne, EconomiX – CNRS and University of Paris Nanterre; Giovanni B. Ramello, Università del Piemonte Orientale and IEL International Program on Institutions, Economics and Law. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the London School of Economics and Political Science History of Postwar Social Science Workshop (London, December 2015), at the annual conference of the Italian Society of Law and Economics (Napoli, December 2015), at the annual conference of the European Association of Law and Economics (Bologna, September 2016), at a GREDEG seminar at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis (January 2017), and at a workshop on “Economists in Courts” at the Walras-Pareto Center (Lausanne, September 2017). We thank the participants, in particular Jean-Baptiste Fleury, for their comments; and the editors of the journal and the referees for their help. Special thanks to Richard Posner and Paul Rubin for their help. Giovanni Ramello acknowledges the support by the Compagnia di San Paolo. Alain Marciano acknowledges the support of the French National Research Agency (ANR) – research program “Investissements d’avenir,” contract ANR-10-LABX-l l-0l. Alessandro Melcarne acknowledges the support of the French National Research Agency (ANR) – research program JCJC, contract ANR-17-CE26-0010-01.

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JUSTICE WITHOUT ROMANCE: THE HISTORY OF THE ECONOMIC ANALYSES OF JUDGES’ BEHAVIOR, 1960–1993

  • Alain Marciano, Alessandro Melcarne and Giovanni B. Ramello

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