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Posted June 9, 2008

Economics Expert to Join Law School Faculty in Fall

Fischman
Joshua Fischman

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Contact: Rob Seal

A legal scholar with a background in economics will join the Law School faculty in the fall.

Joshua B. Fischman, currently a professor in the economics department at Tufts University, will teach quantitative methods in the fall and administrative law in the spring.

“We are delighted to have Josh Fischman join our faculty,” said Rich Hynes, the Nicholas E. Chimicles Research Professor in Business Law and Regulation. “He has demonstrated an outstanding capacity for empirical analysis and the creativity needed to ask and solve some of the most pressing legal issues.  I have no doubt that he will be an excellent teacher and a superlative scholar.”

Fischman is a graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School and has a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Though his research sometimes veers into areas not traditionally associated with economics, such as judicial decision-making, he said the same skill set can be used to study both economics and the law.

“My research goal is to use empirical methods and economic modeling to help understand how the legal system works,” Fischman said. “There are a lot of theories about how the system works, but so many of them haven’t been carefully tested with the data available.”

As an example, Fischman pointed to research on the effects of political ideology on judicial decision-making.

Though this area has been researched extensively, most studies of circuit court judges account only for whether a judge is a Democrat or a Republican, he said.

“There’s a lot you’re missing by doing that,” he said, pointing out that party affiliation doesn’t always indicate ideology, as there could be liberal Republican judges or conservative Democrats.

Fischman also authored a pair of articles in which he examines how judicial ideology affects decisions by three-judge panels on the courts of appeals.

Citing the fact that judges on such panels rarely produce dissenting opinions, Fischman’s research finds that these judges often join a majority opinion, for the sake of collegiality, that does not reflect their personal opinion of a case.   

“Estimating the model on a data set of asylum cases, I find that the impact of judicial ideology is much more severe than estimates from previous studies, and that the high rate of unanimous opinions is due more to collegial voting than to a preponderance of ‘easy’ cases,” he wrote.

Fischman said he is excited to be coming to Virginia.  “It’s an honor to be joining such a first-rate faculty, with a wonderful history in law and economics.”

• REPORTED BY Rob Seal