Project

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Judges, Law, and Language: an Empirical Investigation

Applicant Gertsch Gabriel
Number 181644
Funding scheme Doc.Mobility
Research institution Department of Methodology London School of Economics and Political Science
Institution of higher education Institution abroad - IACH
Main discipline Legal sciences
Start/End 01.10.2018 - 31.03.2019
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Legal sciences
Political science

Keywords (6)

Quantitative Text Analysis; Administrative Law; Judicial Decision-Making; Citation Networks; Empirical Analysis of Law; Language and Law

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Als Gericht des Bundes entscheidet das Bundesverwaltungsgericht Rechtsfälle in den drei Landessprachen Deutsch, Französisch und Italienisch. Das Forschungsprojekt untersucht die Auswirkungen der Dreisprachigkeit des Schweizer Rechtssystems auf die Rechtsprechung des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts mit quantitativen Methoden.
Lay summary

Das Forschungsprojekt untersucht, wie die Mehrsprachigkeit des Schweizer Rechtssystems die Rechtsprechung des Bundesverwaltungsgericht beeinflusst. Als Gericht des Bundes entscheidet das Bundesverwaltungsgericht Rechtsfälle in den drei Landessprachen Deutsch, Französisch und Italienisch. Die Dissertation will verstehen, wie die Landessprache, in welcher ein Urteil ergeht, sich auf die Wahrscheinlichkeit, dass eine Beschwerde gutgeheissen wird, sowie auf die in einem Entscheid zitierten Urteile auswirkt.

Zur Beantwortung dieser Forschungsfragen wird mit Hilfe computerunterstützter Techniken der Textverarbeitung ein umfassender Datensatz von Urteilen des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts in mehreren Rechtsgebieten erstellt. Das Bundesverwaltungsgericht eignet sich besonders gut für quantitative Untersuchungen, weil an diesem Gericht die Fälle quasi-zufällig an Richterinnen und Richter verteilt werden. Dies ermöglicht die Schätzung der individuellen richterlichen Präferenzen und damit die statistische Analyse institutioneller Faktoren, welche die Rechtsprechung des Gerichts beeinflussen.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 07.09.2018

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
University College London Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
London School of Economics and Political Science Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting 2019 Talk given at a conference Are Swiss Judges Neutral? Judicial Preferences Across Legal Areas 04.04.2019 Chicago IL, United States of America Gertsch Gabriel;


Abstract

Judges use language when they administer justice. At the same time, evidence increasingly suggests that languages shape how humans think. This raises intricate questions for the law. If the decision-making of judges is affected by the language in which a decision is rendered, this may undermine a fundamental principle of the legal process: equal treatment before the law. Despite the growing importance of multilingual courts in international and supranational law, the influence of language on law remains understudied in the empirical literature.Addressing this gap, this dissertation quantitatively studies how the language in which a court decision is rendered (in Switzerland: German, French, or Italian) influences the behavior of judges. As a first line of investigation, the thesis examines how the language of a court decision affects case outcomes. However, the behavior of judges is not only reflected in whether they grant or dismiss an appeal. Rather, judges communicate more subtly by giving their legal reasoning and by citing precedent. To allow for a more nuanced understanding of the effect of language, the thesis descriptively explores in a second line of investigation how language affects patterns of word use and of legal citations in the text of judicial decisions.To address these research questions, the research project exploits a natural experiment with randomly assigned judges at the Swiss Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht), and makes use of the multilingual nature of the Swiss legal system. As a result of these two factors, individual judges at this court decide randomly assigned cases in three languages. This provides a unique opportunity to isolate the role of language. In order to quantify the text of a large number of judicial decisions, and to build a novel administrative law dataset, computer-assisted quantitative text analysis is employed.This PhD project aims to make three contributions. First, differing case outcomes by language may clash with equal treatment before the law, a central goal of the law. Thus, the potential findings of the thesis have policy-making implications for the design of multilingual courts and legal systems. Second, insofar as the effect of language attenuates or intensifies judicial bias, the thesis may shed new light on established literatures on judicial behavior. Third, the project will result in a large database on the Swiss court system.
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