Scaling Lower Court Opinions
24 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2018 Last revised: 6 Feb 2019
Date Written: February 1, 2019
Legal scholars and political scientists studying courts and their decision-making have a common interest: They want to understand not only the patterns of the decisions judges make, but they also seek to analyze the policy implications of those decisions. To do so, scholars need to address an important measurement challenge: they have to determine both judges and their written opinion’s latent ideal points in a joint, latent doctrinal space. While previous work successfully compares the locations of legal opinions to ideal points of the respective judges for the U.S. Supreme Court, strategies that are based on judges voting behavior obviously do not work in legal systems where such data is not available. In order to construct a common doctrinal space without recurring to voting data we develop a new scaling model and apply it to lower court decision in Germany. Lo- cating such decisions in a common space is not only a mere academic exercise, but also has several important practical implications–the most prominent being forum shopping and forum selling.
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