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Acclimation Effects on the Supreme Court of Canada: A Cross-Cultural Examination of Judicial Folklore

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Objective.

Few public law theories developed to understand the decision making of U.S. courts have been examined in different cultural settings. This study examines the applicability of the “freshman effects” theory in the context of the Canadian Supreme Court. Methods.

The article uses analysis of variance tests to examine changes in the voting and authorship patterns of 15 Canadian Supreme Court Justices during the Laskin, Dickson, and Lamer Court periods (1973–1999). Results.

We find very little evidence of acclimation effects on the Canadian Supreme Court. However, through the Chief Justice's power to compose decision panels, Canadian justices in their first full year of service are assigned significantly fewer cases than in subsequent years of their career. Thus, Canadian justices are given time to acclimate to the high court through a lower workload, a luxury not afforded to U.S. justices. Conclusions.

Theories of public law adopted to understand U.S. courts may be limited in their generalizability beyond the U.S. setting because of the institutional and political forces that shape judicial decision making in other courts.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of the Pacific; 2: San Joaquin Delta College; 3: Northern Illinois University.

Publication date: 01 September 2003

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