Judge Language Choices

The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Judicial Behaviour(2024)

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Abstract This chapter provides an overview of scientific research into the language choices made by judges. First, it introduces a foundational model to frame the judge’s linguistic decisions, considering both the institutional inputs and downstream impacts. Second, it explores the use of natural language processing tools for measuring judicial language choices, highlighting the challenges faced due to the multifaceted and intricate nature of language. Then the focus shifts to the determinants of these choices, evaluating existing empirical studies with an acknowledgment of the inherent challenges in establishing broad causal evidence given the scarcity of natural or field experiments. Fourth, the chapter examines the consequences of judicial language choices, an even harder problem given the challenge of disentangling other aspects of a judge’s choices besides language. In both respects, a number of important findings have been developed, yet many fundamental questions in judge language choice remain unanswered. The chapter concludes with a discussion of some promising paths for future work.
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