The Choices Judges Make: Court Rulings, Personal Values, and Legal Constraints

Martin Van Hees, Bernard Steunenberg

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this paper we focus on the way in which courts affect public policy. We present a model of judicial behavior that combines insights from theories emphasizing the importance of policy preferences with those suggesting that courts are only motivated by formal-legal criteria. By embedding our model of judicial choice in a broader context of political decision-making we show how judges are able to affect policy and under what circumstances the judiciary will change their legal interpretations. The model is applied to decision-making by the Dutch Supreme Court on euthanasia to illustrate its main features.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-323
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Court decision making
  • Euthanasia
  • Game theory
  • Judicial behavior
  • Public policy

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