Judicial subversion: The effects of political power on court outcomes (with Henrik Sigstad)


We study corruption court cases involving candidates in Brazilian local elections. Even though judges and prosecutors are highly independent of local politics, we find that close winners of the election have a substantially lower probability of being convicted than close losers. There are small differences in the quantity and quality of the lawyers representing electoral winners and losers, indicating the effect is likely due to politicians influencing law enforcers by non-legal means. We show evidence consistent with this influence working through party networks. Furthermore, even though local politicians have no formal power over judicial careers, we find that judges who rely more on the court administration for their careers are more influenced by the election, and that judges who convict mayors are more likely to be promoted by a seniority criterion than by a merit criterion. Finally, we show evidence suggesting that the lower conviction rate among politicians in power leads to an adverse selection of politicians in electoral offices.