Learning about Judicial Independence: Institutional Change in the State Courts
F. Andrew Hanssen
There is widespread agreement that an independent judiciary is crucial to the growth of a nation. Yet systematic analysis of the development of independent courts is difficult, because, typically, formal judicial institutions seldom change. Here, I examine a formal judicial institution with substantial cross-sectional and time-series variation to explore: the procedure used to select and retain judges in the American states. Five different procedures emerged over the nation’s history, and all are in use today. I conclude as follows: Each new procedure was developed in order to increase the independence of state judges and was then superseded by a newer procedure, owing in large part to unanticipated agency problems. However, not all states changed procedures when the opportunity arose. States with larger legislative majorities, earlier entrance to the Union, or constitutional amendment requirements were less likely to adopt new procedures.
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