Munich Personal RePEc Archive

State Capacity, Legal Design and the Venality of Judicial Offices

Crettez, Bertrand and Deffains, Bruno and Musy, Olivier and Tallec, Ronan (2020): State Capacity, Legal Design and the Venality of Judicial Offices.

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Abstract

Judicial venality, i.e., the sales of public positions in the judicial sector, was used extensively in France and in Europe from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Offices were bought because judges received trial fees from litigants. Kings sold them because they needed money, at the cost of losing control of the judiciary. We develop a model of judicial venality and we rely on this model to provide an analytic narrative of the rise and the decline of judicial venality in Old Regime France. Historically, judicial venality improved French legal capacity despite limited opportunities to raise taxes and borrow. But judicial venality also sharply increased legal diversity which, in addition to lengthy and costly trials caused its final demise.

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