Court delays are consistently criticised as being inimical to social welfare. However, the theoretical basis for this assertion is not well established in the law and economics literature. As a first step, very little is known about the impact of court delay on the defendant's optimal plea decision. If the defendant is rational in the sense of inter temporally optimising, court delay may increase or decrease the probability of a trial depending on the defendant's bail status. Some empirical support for this theoretical proposition is found using data on plea behaviour for a selection of cases heard in NSW Australia.
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