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The Role of Precedents on Court Delay

Court delay frustrates economic behavior. Surprisingly, the impact of a coherent jurisdiction for the timely resolution of legal disputes has so far received little attention in civil law countries. Consequently, this paper examines the nexus between court delay and the availability of legal precedents. We model litigation as a two-stage rent seeking game, and find that precedents curb strategic behavior. Thus, the excessive use of party resources in litigation, such as time, is reduced if a precedent is applicable. Using judge-level data of a German trial court, we provide first empirical evidence on the role of precedents for case disposition time and the probability of reversal in a civil law country. Our results show that the availability of precedents significantly contributes to a reduction in delay, and also decreases the probability of reversal. Interestingly, we find no such influence for the citation of legal literature in verdicts.

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