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Advanced Introduction to Empirical Legal Research

Herbert M. Kritzer

Herbert Kritzer presents a clear introduction to the history, methods and substance of empirical legal research (ELR). Quantitative methods dominate in empirical legal research, but an important segment of the field draws on qualitative methods, such as semi-structured interviews and observation. In this book both methodologies are explored alongside systematic data analysis. Offering an overview of the broad ELR literature, the institutions of the law, the central actors of the law, and the subjects of the law are each addressed in this highly readable account that will be essential reading for legal researchers.
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Law’s People

Herbert M. Kritzer


”: judges, jurors, and lawyers. There are other legal system actors who have been the subject of empirical legal research: police officers, probation officers, prison officials, and paralegals. Due to space limitations, I am not able to include discussion of that research in this chapter.

As noted in Chapter 2, ELR regarding the decision patterns of appellate judges began around the 1940s with Pritchett’s study of one term of decisions by the US Supreme Court. Even before that, there were studies documenting variation in judges’ sentencing decisions in criminal cases, but those studies considered how case factors (i.e. the nature of the offense, prior record etc.) influenced sentencing decisions without trying to attribute differences to possible characteristics of the judges themselves. There were some studies providing evidence that judges varied in the sentences they imposed even when cases were very similar and there was an extensive body of research concerning how extra-legal factors such as defendant race affected sentencing (see Hagan 1974), but it was not until the 1960s that research began to focus on the characteristics of the judges themselves as explanations for inter-judge differences. The discussion that follows first considers research on the behavior of appellate judges, usually sitting in collegial (multi-judge) courts, and then turns to decisions by trial court (first instance) judges.

Research on judicial behavior/decision-making has been heavily concentrated on American courts. In significant part this reflects that political scientists in the US define courts and judicial behavior as part of their...

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