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Understanding judges’ choices of sentence types as interpretative work: An explorative study in a Dutch police court

Tijdschrift Recht der Werkelijkheid, Aflevering 1 2016
Trefwoorden Judicial decision-making, sentencing type, (ir)redeemability, whole case approach
Auteurs Peter Mascini, Irene van Oorschot PhD, Assistant professor Don Weenink e.a.
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article critically evaluates the prevailing factor-oriented (e.g. a priori defined legal and extralegal characteristics of defendants) approach in analyses of judicial decision-making. Rather than assuming such factors, we aim to demonstrate how Dutch judges engage in interpretative work to arrive at various sentence types. In their interpretative work, judges attempt to weigh and compare various legal and extralegal features of defendants. Importantly, they do so in the context of the case as a whole, which means that these features do not have independent or fixed meanings. Judges select and weigh information to create an image of defendants’ redeemability. However, extralegal concerns other than redeemability also inform judges’ decisions. We argue that studying the naturally occurring interpretative work of judges results in a better understanding of judicial decision-making than outcome-oriented studies, which view criminal cases as collections of independent legal and extralegal factors.


Peter Mascini
Peter Mascini holds a chair in Empirical Legal Studies at the Erasmus School of Law of the Erasmus University Rotterdam, where he is also associate professor of sociology at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. His research focuses on the legitimization, implementation, and enforcement of laws and policies.

Irene van Oorschot PhD
Irene van Oorschot is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of the Social Sciences at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and will soon start as a postdoctoral researcher at the Anthropology Department of the University of Amsterdam. Drawing on actor network theory and feminist studies of knowledge, her research focuses on legal and scientific modes of truth-production.

Assistant professor Don Weenink
Don Weenink is assistant professor of Sociology at the Department of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam. He has published work on, among other subjects, ethnic inequalities in judicial sentencing.

Gratiëlla Schippers
Gratiëlla Schippers has studied Sociology at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. For her master thesis she has done research about the understanding of judges’ choices of sentence types.
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