Legal scholars and political scientists studying courts and their decision-making have a common interest: They want to understand not only the patterns of the decisions judges make, but they also seek to analyze the policy implications of those decisions. To do so, scholars need to address an
important measurement challenge: they have to determine both judges and their written decision’s latent location in a latent case-space. While previous work successfully compares the locations of legal decisions to ideal points of the respective judges for the U.S. Supreme Court, strategies that are based on judges voting behavior obviously do not work in legal systems where such data is not available. In order to construct a common case-space without recurring to voting data we develop a new scaling model and apply it to lower court decisions in Germany. Locating such decisions in a common space is not only a mere academic exercise, but also has several important practical implications – the most prominent being forum shopping and forum selling.
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