In this chapter I provide an overview of empirical legal research (ELR) that focuses on the institutions associated with law. I define institutions broadly to include both formal organizations (e.g., courts, administrative support organizations, alternative/appropriate dispute resolution organizations etc.) and established law and practices (e.g., types of legal system, constitutions, procedural rules, substantive law). This chapter also includes discussion of systems of selecting judges, and research on the legitimacy of courts.
Court systems around the world vary greatly in their structure and organization. There is surprisingly little ELR focused on court structure, and particularly on what accounts for structural differences cross-nationally, beyond simple observations about differences related to type of legal system (e.g., common law, civil, Islamic). There has been some limited research in the United States examining changes in court organizations, looking both at change to the federal system and at changes within the states. For example, qualitative research has examined the politics underlying proposed changes in the federal system, some successful (e.g., splitting the southern Fifth Circuit into two circuits) and some unsuccessful (e.g., proposals to create a national court of appeals). Outside the US there is research examining both the implementation and the impact of court modernization on a range of national court systems (e.g., Costa Rica, Romania, Venezuela), as well as research on the impact of replacing the House of Lords with the UK Supreme Court as the highest court in the United Kingdom (Paterson 2013).
The structure of state court systems...
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