PEC: Sepehr Shahshahani

Sep 27, 2018, 12:15 pm12:15 pm
Fisher Hall 200



Event Description

I present a formal model of the procedural rule that appellate courts give more deference to trial courts’ findings of fact than to their conclusions of law. The model sheds light on factfinding, rulemaking, and compliance in the judicial hierarchy. Trial judges’ factfinding cannot be consistently truthful. Appellate courts will not adopt consistent rulemaking strategies, instead tailoring the rule to take account of trial judges’ possible factfudging. The outcome of rulemaking might nevertheless be consistent, creating an appearance of legal equality that masks a more complicated strategic reality. Preference divergence between the courts has a non-monotonic effect on factfinding, reflecting how factfinding can help as well as hurt appellate courts. Comparison of the American judicial system to one without deferential fact review shows that the institution of deference is beneficial to appellate courts if and only if their preferences are closely aligned with trial courts. This suggests that understanding why the institution persists requires looking beyond intermediate appellate courts to other actors.