Journal Articles

Why Are Japanese Judges So Conservative in Politically Charged Cases?

2001, American Political Science Review

J. Mark Ramseyer, Eric Bennett Rasmusen


Theory suggests that Japanese politicians have weaker incentives than U.S. politicians to keep lower court judges independent. Accordingly, we hypothesize that Japanese lower court judges who defer on sensitive political questions will do better in their careers. To test this, we assemble several new data sets and measure the quality of the assignments received by about 400 judges after deciding various types of cases. We find that judges who deferred to the ruling party in politically salient disputes obtained better posts than those who did not, and that judges who actively enjoined the national government obtained worse posts than those who did not. We also hypothesize that judges with forthrightly leftist preferences do worse in their careers. We measure the speed at which the 500 judges hired during the 1960s moved up the pay scale and find indications that judges who joined a leftist group were promoted more slowly than their peers.


Rasmusen, Eric Bennett and J. Mark Ramseyer (2001), "Why Are Japanese Judges So Conservative in Politically Charged Cases?," American Political Science Review, Vol. 95, No. 2, June, 331-344.

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