Judicial Reputation

A Comparative Theory

by Nuno Garoupa, Tom Ginsburg

Judges are society’s elders and experts, our masters and mediators. We depend on them to dispense justice with integrity, deliberation, and efficiency. Yet judges, as Alexander Hamilton famously noted, lack the power of the purse or the sword. They must rely almost entirely on their reputations to secure compliance with their decisions, obtain resources, and maintain their political influence.

In Judicial Reputation, Nuno Garoupa and Tom Ginsburg explain how reputation is not only an essential quality of the judiciary as a whole, but also of individual judges. Perceptions of judicial systems around the world range from widespread admiration to utter contempt, and as judges participate within these institutions some earn respect, while others are scorned. Judicial Reputation explores how judges respond to the reputational incentives provided by the different audiences they interact with—lawyers, politicians, the media, and the public itself—and how institutional structures mediate these interactions. The judicial structure is best understood not through the lens of legal culture or tradition, but through the economics of information and reputation. Transcending those conventional lenses, Garoupa and Ginsburg employ their long-standing research on the latter to examine the fascinating effects that governmental interactions, multicourt systems, extrajudicial work, and the international rule-of-law movement have had on the reputations of judges in this era.
  • University of Chicago Press; November 2015
  • ISBN: 9780226290621
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Judicial Reputation
  • Author: Nuno Garoupa; Tom Ginsburg
  • Imprint: University of Chicago Press

In The Press

Judicial Reputation offers an excellent application of state-of-the-art theory to the organization of the courts. With clean writing and a clear structure, the highly regarded Garoupa and Ginsburg have written a wonderful book which makes serious, much-needed advances in the empirical study of courts, in comparative law, in constitutional law, and in comparative politics.”
— J. Mark Ramseyer, Harvard Law School

Judicial Reputation is the culmination of a remarkable research agenda by two of the foremost scholars of the world’s judicial systems. The authors have produced a model of comparative scholarship, integrating methodologies in a productive and persuasive way by employing both quantitative and qualitative empirics. From the fine-grained details of appointment processes to sweeping questions of international judicial networks, Garoupa and Ginsburg make one thing very clear: reputation matters. Shifting away from the conventional approaches that privilege legal tradition and path dependency, the authors embrace a functionalist analysis of reputation to explain judicial development. By disaggregating collective and individual reputation and the roles of internal and external audiences, they present a persuasive theory of institutional change that better accounts for the pockets of exception in individual systems and the areas of convergence across systems. In the course of their argument, the authors also challenge the ideal of global best practices in judicial reform—a welcome reminder that such practices are often contingent and must be tailored to specific contexts.  Judicial Reputation will be an essential resource for students in political science and law, but it should also be required reading for any scholar, judge, or politician interested in judicial reform.”
— Erin F. Delaney, Northwestern Law School

“Garoupa and Ginsburg offer the first comprehensive theory of judicial reputation, showing how collective or individual reputations of judges can have a variety of impacts on both the functioning of courts and legal systems in general. Their decisive analysis draws on experiences from Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Judicial Reputation is a book of huge significance—not only, as its title suggests, for comparative legal theory, but also because of the vast potential applications of Garoupa and Ginsburg’s research. The chapter on the international reputation of judges, for example, unveils a fascinating dimension of globalization and paves the way for further research on forum shopping and international judicial competition.”
— Gilles Cuniberti, University of Luxembourg

"Garoupa and Ginsburg explore how judges respond to the reputational incentives provided by the different audiences they interact with—lawyers, politicians, the media, and the public itself—and how institutional structures mediate these interactions in legal systems throughout the world. Arguing that judicial structure is best understood not through the lens of legal culture or tradition, but through the economics of information and reputation, they draw on their prior research to identify the effects that governmental interactions, multicourt systems, extrajudicial work, and the international rule-of-law movement have on the reputations of judges."
— Law & Social Inquiry

"Reputation, as the authors of this important book define, is the stock of assessments about an actor’s past performance. Reputation is crucial in many areas, and as the authors say, judging is no exception."
— Livelaw

"An impressive contribution to the study of judges and judicial systems.  The theoretical contribution is vast, in that it articulates a vision for understanding micro-level judicial behavior and macro-level functioning of legal systems.  It moves well beyond the traditional 'legal traditions' argument, but not without taking seriously what that conventional wisdom has to offer.  Garoupa and Ginsburg make a strong case for viewing the components of and incentives for various types of judicial reputation as a key factor in understanding the way judges and courts operate in different historical and environmental contexts.  They investigate the sometimes conflicting need for judges to maintain individual and collective reputations.  They focus specifically on the role of institutions in shaping incentives for judges.  Garoupa and Ginsburg’s mixed-methods approach represents the very best of empirical research on courts.  They draw on a deep well of data from judiciaries around the world, but their findings are just as applicable to questions of courts and judges of a much more local nature.  Researchers and reform-minded practitioners across a wide swath of the law and courts world will find inspiration in these pages.Highly recommended."
— Choice

"Even in the world’s largest democracy, India, recent years have seen a worrying rise in the number cases involving judicial misbehaviour, including acts of corruption. Against that background, the book under review makes a timely appearance. It deals with that extremely precious commodity, judicial reputation, and discusses the complex factors that work to support or undermine the good name of judges....A high degree of intellectual rigour and evidence-based reasoning."
— The Commonwealth Lawyer

About The Author

Nuno Garoupa is professor of law at Texas A&M University and holds the chair in research innovation at the Católica Global School of Law, Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Lisbon, Portugal. Tom Ginsburg is the Leo Spitz Professor of International Law at the University of Chicago Law School and research fellow at the American Bar Foundation.