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Oñati Socio-legal Series (Online)



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In the US, courts widely perceive that judicial scarcity is a common problem threatening the fair and timely resolution of disputes. Courts cite the attendant interest in judicial economy to justify interpreting the procedural and substantive law to reduce the judicial workload or accelerate the resolution of cases. But courts’ assumption that there are too few judges to handle the current caseload is hard to substantiate. First, it may not be possible to infer from excessive judicial backlogs or other perceived judicial deficiencies that a shortfall of judges is to blame. Second, even when one confidently perceives that a judicial backlog or other deficiency in a particular US court is attributable to a dearth of judges, one cannot fairly generalize from that example to other US courts and jurisdictions. And third, judgments about judicial deficiencies popularly attributed to the inadequacy of judicial resources may turn on contestable assumptions about judges and adjudication. Given these challenges to measuring the adequacy of judicial resources, one might be skeptical whether judicial economies are worth the costs they impose.

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