The Empirical Supreme Court: Analysing the Behavioural Patterns of Judges in the UK’s Highest Court


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The thesis contributes to the debate on how legal adjudication works in practice, especially regarding the role of individual judges. Very often judging is viewed as a collective endeavour, with the decision of ‘the court’ as a whole forming the basis of the law. Equally as important, however, are the contributions of each judge acting as an individual unit. It has been claimed that “individuality [is] the essential characteristic of the English judicial function” (Blom- Cooper and Drewry) and my work seeks to examine to what extent this ‘individuality’ comes through in the UK context by trying to measure judicial behaviour (in terms of both case outcomes as well as reasoning). My work focuses on the UK Supreme Court, using a ten-year dataset of all cases handed down from 2009 to 2019. In particular, I investigate the following questions: • Do judges demonstrate (noteworthy) patterns of individual judicial behaviour? • Do judges’ behavioural patterns vary significantly between each other? • Do judges’ behavioural patterns vary significantly across different areas and types of case? • Does this affect the outcome of cases and is there a possibility for prediction depending on the judge sitting on the case? • What might explain these patterns (or lack thereof)?

Elliott, Mark
Erdos, david
courts, decision-making, UK Supreme Court
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
AHRC (1947061)
Arts and Humanities Research Council (1947061)
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)