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Appeal from Jury or Judge Trial: Defendants' Advantage

Kevin M. Clermont and Theodore Eisenberg
American Law and Economics Review
Vol. 3, No. 1 (Spring 2001), pp. 125-164
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42705383
Page Count: 40
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Appeal from Jury or Judge Trial: Defendants' Advantage
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Abstract

The prevailing "expert" opinion is that jury verdicts are largely immune to appellate revision. Using a database that combines all federal civil trials and appeals decided since 1988, we find that jury trials, as a group, are in fact not so special on appeal. But the data do show that defendants succeed more than plaintiffs on appeal from civil trials, and especially from jury trials. Defendants appealing their losses after trial by jury obtain reversals at a 31% rate, while losing plaintiffs succeed in only 13% of their appeals from jury trials. Both descriptive analyses of the results and more formal regression models dispel explanations based on selection of cases and instead support an explanation based on appellate judges' attitudes toward trial-level adjudicators. That is, these attitudes make the appellate court more favorably disposed to the defendant than are the trial judge and the jury. The especially large difference between appellate court and trial jury dispositions probably stems from the appellate judges' sizable misperceptions about the jury.

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