Book cover for 'Inside Appellate Courts'
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Inside Appellate Courts

The Impact of Court Organization on Judicial Decision Making in the United States Courts of Appeals
Jonathan Matthew Cohen
Offers an in-depth consideration of how the United States Courts of Appeal operate


Inside Appellate Courts is a comprehensive study of how the organization of a court affects the decisions of appellate judges. Drawing on interviews with more than seventy federal appellate judges and law clerks, Jonathan M. Cohen challenges the assumption that increasing caseloads and bureaucratization have impinged on judges' abilities to bestow justice. By viewing the courts of appeals as large-scale organizations, Inside Appellate Courts shows how courts have walked the tightrope between justice and efficiency to increase the number of cases they decide without sacrificing their ability to dispense a high level of justice.

Cohen theorizes that, like large corporations, the courts must overcome the critical tension between the autonomy of the judges and their interdependence and coordination. However, unlike corporations, courts lack a central office to coordinate the balance between independence and interdependence. Cohen investigates how courts have dealt with this tension by examining topics such as the role of law clerks, methods of communication between judges, the effect of a court's size and geographic location, the role of argumentation, the use of visiting judges, the significance of the increasing use of unpublished decisions, and the nature and role of court culture.

Inside Appellate Courts offers the first comprehensive organizational study of the appellate judicial process. It will be of interest to the social scientist studying organizations, the sociology of law, and comparative dispute resolution and have a wide appeal to the legal audience, especially practicing lawyers, legal scholars, and judges.

Jonathan M. Cohen is Attorney at Gilbert, Heintz, and Randolph LLP.

Praise / Awards

  • "How does highly decentralized organization with no strong central steering mechanism, or even central coordinating institution, function and successfully negotiate a heavy workload? Cohen provides a strong and convincing analysis of how this is accomplished in at least one very important setting, among federal circuit court judges. It will become an indispensable text on the nature and functioning of courts, and it raises important, provocative issues for organization theory. . . . A greatly needed antidote to the 'crisis-in-the-courts' literature."
    —Malcolm Feeley, University of California School of Law, Berkeley
  • ". . . presents a breakthrough perspective on U.S. Courts of Appeal. Cohen gets inside, not one but several appellate courts to offer for the first time an intimate study based on his own participant observation and extensive interviews. . . . Cohen pierces the veil of ignorance about how the courts actually work and adapt to enormous stresses. Inside Appellate Courts skillfully melds and interprets the words and practices of judges by provocatively arguing that the multivisional structure of corporations provides a more compelling model of court behavior than the myth of the heroic, solitary judge. This book opens a window on one of the most invisible chambers in the American power structure and shows how a seemingly fragile institution demonstrates striking powers of resilience and adaptation."
    —Terence C. Halliday, American Bar Foundation and Northwestern University
  • ". . . this is a book that I would strongly recommend to anyone who is interested in the workings of appellate courts in the U.S. (and I think the detailed descriptions would also provide an interesting baseline for comparison for those interested in a broader comparative perspective). . . . In summary, this is a book that has a wealth of fascinating information, perspectives, and interpretations of how the courts of appeals operated at the end of the Twentieth Century."
    —Don Songer, University of South Carolina, Law and Politics Book Review, Volume 12, No. 7 (July 2002)
  • "Cohen has written a valuable book---one that I recommend. The book reveals important synergies between and among sociology, economics, and statistics and probabilities in evaluating federal circuit courts."
    Michigan Law Review
  • ". . . Cohen has made an important contribution to the scholarly literature on judicial administration. His book presents a great deal of fresh and interesting information, much of it based on candid interviews with judges and staff, about the internal operations of the federal appellate courts, within a lucid theoretical framework based on the sociology of organizations."
    —Richard Posner, Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the, Seventh Circuit and Senior Lecturer, University of Chicago Law School

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Copyright © 2002, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

News, Reviews, Interviews

Review Law and Politics Book Review | 7/1/2002

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 248pp.
  • 7 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11256-2

Add to Cart
  • $84.95 U.S.

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