Scaling Lower Court Opinions

24 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2018 Last revised: 6 Feb 2019

See all articles by Christian Arnold

Christian Arnold

School of Law and Politics

Benjamin G. Engst

University of Mannheim - SFB 884

Thomas Gschwend

University of Mannheim - Department of Political Science

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.

Suggested Citation

Arnold, Christian and Engst, Benjamin and Gschwend, Thomas, Scaling Lower Court Opinions (February 1, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Christian Arnold (Contact Author)

School of Law and Politics ( email )

65-68 Park Place
Cardiff, CF10 3AS
United Kingdom

Benjamin Engst

University of Mannheim - SFB 884 ( email )

L13, 17
Mannheim, 68131

Thomas Gschwend

University of Mannheim - Department of Political Science ( email )

Mannheim, D-68131

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