Inside Appellate Courts is a comprehensive study of how the decisions of appellate judges are affected by the way a court is organized. Drawing on interviews with more than 75 federal appellate judges and law clerks, Jonathan 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 eludicates 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 in balancing the autonomy of its judges and their interdependence and coordination. Yet, unlike corporations, courts lack a central office to coordinate this balance. To investigate how the courts have prevailed over this tension, Cohen examines 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geographic location, the role of argumentation, the use of visiting judges, the significance of the increasing use of unpublished decisions, and the nature and role of court culture.