Dominik Hangartner, Benjamin E Lauderdale, Judith Spirig, “Judicial Preference Variation and Aggregation on the Swiss Federal Administrative Court 2007-2012”

Recent studies of asylum adjudication in several Western countries have found sizeable disparities between individual adjudicators. We contribute to this literature by exploiting a natural experiment from Switzerland, where all asylum appeals are handled by the Federal Administrative Court. Several features of the Swiss asylum appeal process conspire to offer an unusual opportunity to examine judges’ revealed preferences and how they correlate with their party affiliation. First, the asylum cases have a common, uni-dimensional structure, as all decisions typically involve the appeal of an initial asylum decision. Second, the cases are assigned at random (conditional on language) to panels of judges, each of whom has a known party affiliation. As a result, we can test which of several decision- and game-theoretic theories of group decision-making seem to best fit the panel decisions as well as inferring the judges’ individual preferences. We show that inconsistencies in decision-making due to panel composition were substantially reduced between 2007 and 2012, primarily because judges affiliated with the most liberal party converged towards the rest of the court.

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