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Tijdschrift Law and Method x Jaar 2019 x Rubriek Article x
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Access_open Using Case Studies for Research on Judicial Opinions. Some Preliminary Insights

Tijdschrift Law and Method, november 2019
Trefwoorden case study, judicial opinions, empirical legal research, qualitative methods, research on judicial opinions
Auteurs Mateusz Stępień
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    There is a pressing need to develop a research methodology for studying judicial opinions that goes beyond both dogmatic analyzes and the established positions developed within philosophy of law and legal theory (e.g. the hermeneutic and argumentative approaches). One possible way is to adopt or modify methodologies developed within empirically oriented social sciences. Most social science textbooks devoted to methodology of empirical research deal with case studies. So far, this research framework developed within the social sciences has not been applied directly to judicial opinions, though they have been used for some empirical legal research studies. Even et first sight, case study research would appear to have potential for use with judicial opinions. The aim of the paper is to answer the question, how and to what extent can case study methodology developed within the social sciences be fruitfully used to examine judicial opinions? The general answer is undoubtedly positive (case studies can bring new, non-trivial threads to the research methodology on judicial opinions), though with many serious and far-reaching reservations.


Mateusz Stępień
Assistant Professor, Department of Law and Administration, Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland.

    In legal education, criticism is conceived as an academic activity. As lecturers, we expect from students more than just the expression of their opinion; they have to evaluate and criticize a certain practice, building on a sound argumentation and provide suggestions on how to improve this practice. Criticism not only entails a negative judgment but is also constructive since it aims at changing the current state of affairs that it rejects (for some reason or other). In this article, we want to show how we train critical writing in the legal skills course for first-year law students (Juridische vaardigheden) at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. We start with a general characterization of the skill of critical writing on the basis of four questions: 1. Why should we train critical writing? 2. What does criticism mean in a legal context? 3. How to carry out legal criticism? and 4. How to derive recommendations from the criticism raised? Subsequently, we discuss, as an illustration to the last two questions, the Dutch Urgenda case, which gave rise to a lively debate in the Netherlands on the role of the judge. Finally, we show how we have applied our general understanding of critical writing to our legal skills course. We describe the didactic approach followed and our experiences with it.


Bart van Klink
Bart van Klink is Professor of Legal Methodology, Department of Legal Theory and History, Faculty of Law, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Lyana Francot
Lyana Francot is Associate Professor of Legal Theory, Department of Legal Theory and History, Faculty of Law, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
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