Why Do Courts Delay?


Deborah Beim, Tom S. Clark, and John W. Patty

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Beim, Deborah, Tom S. Clark, and John W. Patty (2017). Why Do Courts Delay? Journal of Law and Courts, 5(2): 199-241. DOI: 10.1086/692907.
Answering one question often begets another. We present a decision-theoretic model that describes how this affects the sequencing of decisions over time. Because answering an easy question may raise a more difficult one, a rational judge may delay resolution even if he has perfect information about the correct decision. Furthermore, because otherwise unrelated questions may raise similar follow-ups, he may optimally clump decisions together. Our theory thus generates an endogenous economy of scale in dispute resolution and contributes to the literature on punctuated equilibrium theory. We illustrate the results of our model with a case study from legal history in the United States.
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