Recognising Legal Characteristics of the Judgments of the European Court of Justice: Difficult but not Impossible

iCourts Working Paper Series No. 308, 2022

14 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2022

See all articles by Alessandro Contini

Alessandro Contini

Technical University of Denmark; University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts

Sebastiano Piccolo

University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts

Lucia López Zurita

University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts

Urska Sadl

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW); University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts

Date Written: November 3, 2022

Abstract

Machine learning has improved significantly during the past decades, with computers performing remarkably in formerly difficult tasks. This article reports the preliminary results on the prediction of two legally relevant characteristics of judgments of the European Court of Justice, doctrinal outcome and deference. The variables require the knowledge of concepts and doctrines of European Union law and judicial decision-making. The analysis relies on 1704 manually labelled judgments and trains a set of classifiers based on word embedding, LSTM, and convolutional neural networks. The preliminary findings suggest that all classifiers exceed simple baselines, learning meaningful representations of the judgments. Yet, the overall performance is rather weak, suggesting that the usual limitations of machine learning, including small training data, significant class imbalance and the characteristics of the variables requiring external knowledge pose a significant challenge to machines learning the law. The article also outlines directions for future research.

Keywords: Classification, European Court of Justice, Word embedding, LSTM, CNN

Suggested Citation

Contini, Alessandro and Piccolo, Sebastiano and López Zurita, Lucia and Sadl, Urska, Recognising Legal Characteristics of the Judgments of the European Court of Justice: Difficult but not Impossible (November 3, 2022). iCourts Working Paper Series No. 308, 2022, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4267335 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4267335

Alessandro Contini

Technical University of Denmark ( email )

Anker Engelunds Vej 1
Building 101A
Lyngby, 2800
Denmark

University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts

Sebastiano Piccolo (Contact Author)

University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts ( email )

Studiestraede 6
Copenhagen, DK-1455
Denmark

Lucia López Zurita

University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts

Urska Sadl

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW) ( email )

Via Bolognese 156 (Villa Salviati)
50-139 Firenze
Italy
27914233 (Phone)
27914233 (Fax)

University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts ( email )

Studiestraede 6
Copenhagen, DK-1455
Denmark

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