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Judicial Favoritism of Politicians Evidence from Small Claims Court

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Document pages: 25 pages

Abstract: Multiple studies have documented racial, gender, political ideology, orethnical biases in comparative judicial systems. Supplementing this literature,we investigate whether judges rule cases differently when one of the litigantsis a politician. We suggest a theory of power collusion, according to whichjudges might use rulings to buy cooperation or threaten members of the otherbranches of government. We test this theory using a sample of small claimscases in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, where no collusion should exist. Theresults show a negative bias of 3.7 percentage points against litigantpoliticians, indicating that judges punish, rather than favor, politicians incourt. This punishment in low-salience cases serves as a warning sign forpoliticians not to cross the judiciary when exercising checks and balances,suggesting yet another barrier to judicial independence in developmentsettings.

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