How Well do Measures of Ability Predict Judicial Performance?: A Case Study Using Securities Class Actions
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
Diverse measures are used as proxies for judicial ability, ranging from the college and law school a judge attended to the rate at which her decisions are cited by other judges. Yet, there has been little serious examination of which of these ability measures is better or worse at predicting the quality of judicial performance - including the management and disposition of cases. In this article, we attempt to evaluate these measures of ability by examining a rich group of performance indicators. Our innovation is to derive performance measures from judicial decisions other than case outcomes (which are inherently difficult to evaluate): the decisions to preside over a securities class action, to reject a motion for lead plaintiff, to dismiss the complaint with prejudice, and to reject a request for fees. In each case, an affirmative decision requires more work from the judge, and thus may be an indicator that the judge works hard and, all else equal, performs well. Using a database of securities class action cases, we find that judges who publish frequently and are highly cited are more likely to dismiss with prejudice but no more likely to make the hard choice in the other cases. Other proxies for judicial ability (attended top law school, judicial experience, earlier position as judge, prior private practice, heavy business caseload, and senior status) are more mixed.