Find the working paper here. (Version: 11/2015)

Past research suggests that natural preferences for leisure influence the way in which federal judges carry out their work. We consider the extent to which leisure incentives reduce the speed with which judges work and the quality of their output. We take advantage of a natural experiment caused by an annual sporting event that creates differential distractions across judges. Using a difference- in-differences design, among federal court of appeals judges we show that a judge’s alma mater’s participation in the NCAA Mens’ Basketball Tournament both slows the rate at which opinions are drafted and ultimately undermines opinion quality, even accounting for the additional time judges spend writing the opinion. The findings suggest that leisure incentives influence important normative concerns for swift and high quality justice.

Submitted for review.

Together with
Tom S. Clark (Emory University)
Jeffrey K. Staton (Emory University)