Ideology in the Courts: the Influence of Judges' Worldview on their Decisions

Dr. Matej Avbelj, PhD

1. 5. 2017 - 30. 4. 2020

 

Project description

This project (application No 419) has been selected for funding by the Slovenian Research Agency on the basis of the public call for co-funding research projects in 2017. The project will be funded for three years between 1.5. 2017 and 30.4. 2020.

The project group is composed of the GSG research group (sicris)  and the research group of Re-forma d.o.o (sicris). The project load is 1756 hours per annum (project type A) and is divided between the two organizations 60% - 40% in favour of the GSG Research group. 

Director of the Project: dr. Matej Avbelj, sicris

Researchers:

dr. Janez Šušteršič, sicris

dr. Jernej Letnar Černič, sicris

dr. Katarina Vatovec, sicris

Dejan Valentinčič, mag., sicris

mag. Ana Jevšek Pezdir, sicris

Snežana Šušteršič, sicris

Brief description of the project

The purpose of the proposed project is to perform the first in-depth research into ideological profiles of members of the judiciary in Slovenia, while adapting the methodology and interpretation to take into consideration the usual criticism against similar research in other countries.

The objectives of the research are theoretical, applicative and normative.

Theoretical objective:

O1: To develop a multidimensional analytical model for assessing ideological profiles of the most senior members of the judiciary.

In this research, the model will be applied to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia, and is later planned to be extended to cover the regular judiciary, especially the Supreme Court and higher courts. The model will be adapted to the conditions in Slovenia. However, these are part of the broader European approach to law, so the model could later also be expanded to include the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the EU.

The objective is for the application of the theoretical model to allow: (1) assessing the ideological profile of individual judges, (2) forecasting the results of future court cases.

Applicative objectives:

O2: To assess the ideological positions of Constitutional Court judges by applying the model in an analysis of the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court.

O3: To analyse empirically the decisions of the Constitutional Court based on the results of the model.

The ideological positions of judges will be assessed based on their votes in a broad sample of important rulings. More details about how the sample will be formed and the ideological positions assessed, and about the planned empirical analysis can be found in the chapter on project content.

Normative objectives:

O4: To develop and propose guidelines for improving the functioning of the Slovenian judiciary by strengthening fundamental court values, like independence, impartiality and responsibility of courts and individual judges.

O5: To develop concrete institutional proposals for improving the appointment procedure for Constitutional Court judges and the system of appointments and promotions of judges in other courts.

The proposals will be based on the results of empirical research and the new theoretical findings about the functioning of the judicial system from our research, and on knowledge about the current normative regulation and its basis in legal theory and politics.

The research will result in a completely new perspective on the legal system for Slovenia, supported by original empirical findings about the role of ideological profiles. An important new contribution to the Slovenian (and also European) legal expertise will be the interdisciplinary approach to law as a value and discourse-based concept, combining the knowledge and methodology from law, economics, sociology and political science. We expect the results to encourage further research and thus contribute to a new interdisciplinary line of social science research.

RESEARCH PLAN

The research will be divided into four consecutive steps, according to the content of the work. These steps are defined as content sections corresponding to the logical progression of the research. Results from each section are a condition for performing the next one. The following content sections (CS) are planned:

CS1: Operationalising the concept of ideology and designing a multidimensional model for assessing ideological profiles.

CS2: Applying the model for assessing the ideological profiles of individual judges to a sample of Constitutional Court rulings.

CS3: Using the assessed ideological profiles for empirical analyses.

CS4: Normative analysis and recommendations for improving the institutional framework.

The research will be distinctively interdisciplinary, combining the theoretical approaches and research methods characteristic of law, sociology, political science and economics. Legal science and theory will serve as the basic methodological approach, which was described in more detail in the chapter on the scientific background of the research. The sociological approach will be used especially in defining ideological dimensions and different positions within these dimensions. The political-science approach will be needed in particular to form normative recommendations and understand the relationship between the judiciary and political institutions. The approach of economics will be used in analysing rulings that pertain to economic issues and in the empirical analysis, since econometric methods, primarily developed in economics, are now widely used in other areas of social studies.

Content section

Results

Objectives

Timeline *

CS1: Operationalising the concept of ideology and designing a multidimensional model for assessing ideological profiles

R1: A methodological report on the model for assessing ideological profiles

O1: To develop a multidimensional analytical model for assessing ideological profiles of the most senior members of the judiciary

M1–M9

CS2: Applying the model for assessing the ideological profiles of individual judges to a sample of Constitutional Court rulings

R2: A methodological report on the application of the model

R3: A database file with information on the assessed ideological profiles of Constitutional Court judges

R4: A scientific article for a Slovenian journal, academic conferences, dissemination in the media

O2: To assess the ideological profiles of Constitutional Court judges by applying the model in an analysis of the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court

M10–M20

CS3: Using the assessed ideological profiles for empirical analyses

R5: Scientific articles in international journals, academic conferences, dissemination in the media

O3: To analyse empirically the decisions of the Constitutional Court based on the results of the model

M21–M30

CS4: Normative analysis and recommendations for improving the institutional framework

R6: Dissemination of the recommendations: workshops with stakeholders, article in a Slovenian specialised journal, presentations at academic conferences and in the media

O4: To develop and propose guidelines for improving the functioning of the Slovenian judiciary by strengthening fundamental court values, like independence, impartiality and responsibility of courts and individual judges

O5: To develop concrete institutional proposals for improving the appointment procedure for Constitutional Court judges and the system of appointments and promotions of judges in other courts

M31–M36