From Dogma to Data: Exploring How Case Law Evolves

The project is led by Professor Henrik Palmer and is funded by the Free Research Council. The project began December 1st 2014 and will run to November 20th 2017.

The project investigates how case law evolves, in a new empirical way. Hopefully, this will provide a better understanding of how the courts work.  

When describing the current legal position of a certain area, it is common to use case law to show which laws apply to this area in particular. However, a complete analysis of the rulings from the courts are rarely or never available. This is in part, due to the massive amount of case law. It is simply impossible for one person to read, analyze and systematize all the rulings.  The consequence of this is that the descriptions of legal positions often are based on subjective choices in terms of what case law is included and what is left out.

However, by starting with the newest developments in automated processing of textual contents, together with network analysis of legal texts, it has become possible to systematically analyze all rulings given by a specific court.  In doing so, it is now possible to get a completely new empirical view of what types of cases a court decides, what is decisive in the cases and how the case law has evolved over time. 

Based on a case study of three selected international courts, the project will create a database, which will be the base for communicating far more extensive knowledge on the way the courts work, than we are used to.

This creates opportunities for lawyers, as well as ordinary citizens, who will now be able to gather information on the courts case law much faster, than they could before. This will strengthen the rule of law in society, as well as contribute to better legal research and legal education.

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From Dogma to Data is part of the network NoLesLaw. Read more about it here.