Written Justifications of Judgments of Utrecht District Court: An Empirical Study on the Relationship between Case Characteristics and Text Characteristics

Philip Langbroek*, Mandy Van Der Velde, Tina Van Der Linden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The primary function ofwritten judgments is to legitimize the decision of the court. In the Netherlands, The judiciary perceives a gap between itself and the general public. Laypeople seem to understand little of the work of the courts. An important question is: For whom do judges write their judgments? This study presumes that the various intended audiences (parties, professional lawyers, other judges, the general public) can be deduced from the characteristics of justification texts: text complexity, juridical intensity, and moral considerations. The purpose of this study is to explain differences in text characteristics by differences in legal area and various case characteristics. We used the text characteristics of 958 cases filed at Utrecht District Court in 2009 2010. The results show that conflict and management characteristics are far more important predictors of text characteristics than "legal area" (trade, administrative, criminal, small claims, family). Also, conflict characteristics are more important to explain text differences than case management aspects and legal area. So much, that there seems to be an homogeneous justification text culture over the borders of legal areas. Also, justification texts seem to be written for professional lawyers primarily.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-162
Number of pages25
JournalJustice System Journal
Volume36
Issue number2
Early online date13 Dec 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015

Keywords

  • Court decisions
  • Judicial audiences
  • Justification texts
  • Netherlands
  • Text quality

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