The ICTY Experiment: A Triple-Use Study on Legal Reasoning

  • Date: Dec 17, 2018
  • Time: 16:00
  • Speaker: Holger Spamann
  • Harvard Law School
  • Location: MPI
  • Room: Basement

The ICTY Experiment: A Triple-Use Study on Legal Reasoning

(Holger Spamann, Lars Klöhn, Richard Kim, Pavlos Protopapas, Christophe Jamin, Vik Khanna, Zhuang Liu, Pavan Mamidi, Alexander Morell, Ivan Reidel)

In the lab, we gave 331 real judges from seven major jurisdictions (US, Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India) 55 minutes to decide whether to affirm or reverse the conviction in an international criminal appeals case, and to provide brief reasons; we also asked the appropriate prison sentence. We gave the judges fictitious briefs and real legal materials (trial judgment, statute, precedent). We utilize this setting for three simultaneous studies:

1) “Law Matters?” Experiment: In 2×3 randomized experiment, we assigned each judge (i) either a sympathetic or an unsympathetic defendant, and (ii) a precedent strongly favoring, strongly disfavoring, or weakly favoring reversal. Only factor (i) (sympathy) has a detectable effect.

2) “Comparative Judicial Reasoning” Observational Study: By tracking the judges’ use of materials in 10-second increments, we trace out the judges’ internal thought processes, and find no detectable patterns by nationality or legal family. Nor do we find any difference in the effect of precedent between common and civil law judges. Only judges’ written reasons conform to the clichés about their jurisdictions.

3) Replication of Judicial Anchoring in a More Realistic Setting: We confirm the findings from simpler settings that judges’ sentencing is subject to anchoring on a meaningless number in a technical explanation of the sentencing task.

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