This chapter demonstrates the use of the case study for criminal law. Working through the experience of doing a case study of a Dutch criminal court, the authors demonstrate the intricacies of making theoretical, methodological and practical choices and the consequences of these for the ‘case’ they were eventually able to make. The authors used as their guiding research question how judges of a magistrate’s court in the Netherlands arrive at their decisions as a matter of everyday work practice. By opening the black box of sentencing, the authors aimed to complement survey research and experimental research design, which tends to problematically isolate the impact of legal and nonlegal factors on sentence outcomes and to ignore the processes and mechanisms that take place in between. They also sought to challenge juridical understandings of adjudication and sentencing that understand these activities as purely cognitive or intuitive leaps in the rule-governed dark.
Irene van Oorschot and Peter Mascini
Willem H. van Boom, Pieter Desmet and Peter Mascini
Against the backdrop of the steady rise of empirical legal research, this chapter starts by introducing the goal of the volume: to provide lawyers, policy makers and academic researchers with first-hand insights on the possibilities and limitations of different empirical methods for legal questions. The chapter continues by contrasting methods of legal research with methods of empirical legal research and by describing how the latter can complement the former. Subsequently, it describes the three methods of empirical legal research that are addressed in this volume – experiments, surveys and case studies – and links the choice of research strategy to the weighting of different research purposes – control, representativeness and naturalness. It then introduces the chapters to this volume. The chapter ends by discussing the practicality of empirical legal research as a major challenge for bridging gaps between legal scholars and empirical legal scholars.