Ramseyer-Rasmusen Judicial Independence Book, 30 March 2006

J. Mark Ramseyer and Eric B. Rasmusen have written a book titled Measuring Judicial Independence: The Political Economy of Judging in Japan, the University of Chicago Press, 2003, ISBN=0226703886. It is based on the series of articles we have written on the subject, but it is not simply a collection of those articles.

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URL: http://rasmusen.org/published/jbook/jbook.htm. Eric Rasmusen, Indiana University, Dept. of Business Economics and Public Policy, Kelley School of Business, Room 456, 1309 East Tenth Street, Bloomington, Indiana 47405-1701, (812)855-9219. E-mail: [email protected] . J. Mark Ramseyer, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA 02138 Email: [email protected] (617) 496-4878 (tel); (617) 496-6118 (fax).


  1. From our 1997 JLEO article looking at political influence in general.

  2. From our 1999 SC Law Review article on tax cases.

  3. From our 2001 JLS article on criminal cases.

  4. From our 2001 APSR article on politically sensitive cases.

Here are abstracts and web access to our various papers on the Japanese judicial system:


  1. J. Mark Ramseyer and Eric Rasmusen. Judicial Independence in Civil Law Regimes: Econometrics from Japan. , Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization (1997) 13: 259-286. Also published in Japanese as ``Judicial Independence in a Civil Law Regime: The Evidence from Japan'' in Leviathan: The Japanese Journal of Political Science (1998) 22: 116- 149 (see this page ). Judges in Japan cannot be fired if their decisions offend the government, but they follow a career path in which the location and type of positions they hold may be subject to political influence. We have obtained a comprehensive record of career assignments for judges educated after the Second World War. We couple data on judicial output (the quantity and nature of a judge's opinions) with these career records. We examine judges who began their careers 1961-65, focussing on the Class of 1965, for whom we have determined the number of pro- and anti- government decisions. If the promotion process is politicized, the marginal impact of individual politically deviant cases will decline over the course of a judge's career, since the political opinions of older judges have already become clear to the administration. This does seem to be the case in our logit regressions. In Ascii- Latex and Acrobat pdf ( http://rasmusen.org/published/Rasmusen_97.JLEO.japan.pdf ).

  2. J. Mark Ramseyer and Eric Rasmusen.``Why the Japanese Taxpayer Always Loses,'' Southern California Law Review, 72: 571-596 (January/March 1999) . The tax office wins most cases in Japan. We think about why this might be. We find that although judges who rule in favor of the taxpayer do not suffer in their future careers, if the loser-- whether governemnt or taxpayer-- appeals and wins, the reversed judge's career does take a turn for the worse. This implies that the government cares more about accurate judging than about pro-government judging. In Ascii txt , and Acrobat pdf ( http://rasmusen.org/published/Rasmusen-99.SCLR.jpntax.pdf).

  3. J. Mark Ramseyer and Eric Rasmusen. ``Skewed Incentives: Paying for Politics as a Japanese Judge, '' . A nontechnical survey of our work on Japanese courts for the practitioner journal, Judicature, 83:190- 195 (January/February 2000) (cover article). In Ascii txt and Acrobat pdf ( http://rasmusen.org/published/Rasmusen_00.judicat.pdf ).

  4. J. Mark Ramseyer and Eric Rasmusen. ``Why is the Japanese Conviction Rate So High?'' Journal of Legal Studies , January 2001) 30: 53-88. Conviction rates are high in Japan. Why? We suggest it is because Japanese prosecutors are understaffed. If they can afford to bring only their strongest cases, judges see only the most obviously guilty defendants, and high conviction rates would then follow. Crucially, however, Japanese judges face biased incentives. A judge who acquits a defendant runs significant risks of hurting his career and earns scant hope of positive payoffs. Using data on the careers and published opinions of 321 Japanese judges (all judges who published an opinion on a criminal case in 1976 or 1979), we find skewed incentives to convict. First, a judge who ---trying a defendant alone - acquits the defendant will spend during the next decade an extra year and a half in branch office assignments. Second, a judge who acquits a defendant but finds the acquittal reversed on appeal will spend an extra two years in branch offices. Conversely, a judge who finds a conviction reversed incurs no substantial penalty. Unfortunately for innocent suspects, the absence of an unbiased judiciary also reduces the incentives Japanese prosecutors have to prosecute only the most obviously guilty defendants. In Ascii txt and (http://rasmusen.org/published/Rasmusen-01.JLS.jpncon.pdf, Acrobat pdf ) .

  5. ``Why Are Japanese Judges so Conservative in Politically Charged Cases?'' (with J. Mark Ramseyer ), American Political Science Review, 95: 331-344 (June 2001). In politically charged cases, Japanese judges routinely implement the policy preferences of the long-time ruling Liberal Democratic Party (the LDP). That Supreme Court justices defer to the LDP simply reflects the fact that they are appointed by the LDP at very a senior level. That lower court judges defer reflects -- we hypothesize that judges who defer on sensitive political questions do better in their careers. To test this, measure the quality of the assignments that some 400 judges received after deciding various categories of cases. To test the effect of a judge's decision on his job assignments, we simultaneously hold constant several proxies for effort, intelligence, seniority, and political bias. Consistently judges who defer to the LDP in politically salient disputes do better than those who do not defer. Similarly, judges who enjoin the national (but not local) government more frequently suffer in their careers. Moreover, lower- court judges do not suffer merely because the Supreme Court reverses them, which might just indicate incompetence; they suffer only if the Court reverses them in the most sensitive political cases. Available in MS-Word and Acrobat PDF (http://rasmusen.org/published/01-APSR.jpnpub.pdf). Data available via this link ( http://rasmusen.org/papers/apsr2001.htm).