Research Handbook on Law and Courts
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Research Handbook on Law and Courts

Edited by Susan M. Sterett and Lee D. Walker

The Research Handbook on Law and Courts provides a systematic analysis of new work on courts as governing institutions. Authors consider how courts have taken on regulating fundamental categories of inclusion and exclusion, including citizenship rights. Courts’ centrality to governance is addressed in sections on judicial processes, sub-national courts, and political accountability, all analyzed in multiple legal/political systems. Other chapters turn to analyzing the worldwide push for diversity in staffing courts. Finally, the digitization of records changes both court processes and studying courts. Authors included in the Handbook discuss theoretical, empirical and methodological approaches to studying courts as governing institutions. They also identify promising areas of future research.
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Chapter 22: When do the losers win? Appellate court reversals of civil jury verdicts

Tao L. Dumas


Negligence cases are the daily business of many courts, but seldom the subject matter used to assess theories of legal mobilization and decision making. Popular images of jury verdicts contribute to the idea that in the United States, the legal system awards people who complain, whether they merit an award or not. Yet if people are aware of what courts do before they take cases, complainants only ought to win about 50 percent of the time, as economists have argued. Furthermore, systematic advantages accrue to those more experienced in the legal system, and judges supervise what trial courts and juries have awarded. This chapter finds that, indeed, defendants who lose appeal more often than plaintiffs, and courts of appeal are more likely to rule in favor of defendants who appeal than plaintiffs. This chapter draws these cases from the Alabama Jury Verdict reports, and reports from courts of appeals.

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