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Legislating Incentives for Attorney Representation in Civil Rights Litigation
Journal of Law & Courts (2014)
  • Sean Farhang, University of California - Berkeley
  • Douglas M. Spencer, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

In this paper we investigate whether, when Congress relies upon private lawsuits to implement a law, the details of the legislation can importantly influence the extent to which the private bar is mobilized to carry out the prosecutorial function. We ask: In statutes with private rights of action, can Congress substantially affect the degree to which plaintiffs are represented by counsel? Using an original and novel dataset based upon review of archived litigation documents for cases filed in the Northern and Eastern Districts of California over the two decades spanning 1981 to 2000, we examine the effects of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which increased the economic value of Title VII job discrimination claims, on the ability of plaintiffs to secure counsel. We find that over the course of the decade after passage, the law very substantially increased the probability that Title VII plaintiffs would be represented by counsel, and that in doing so it reversed a decade long trend in the opposite direction.

  • Representation,
  • job discrimination,
  • private enforcement,
  • civil rights,
  • litigation
Publication Date
February, 2014
Citation Information
Sean Farhang and Douglas M. Spencer. "Legislating Incentives for Attorney Representation in Civil Rights Litigation" Journal of Law & Courts Vol. 2 Iss. 2 (2014)
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