Research proposal "Uit het bovenstaande volgt dat ..."; The Comprehensibility of Dutch Administrative Law Judgments

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentationAcademic


In communicating their judgments to citizens, judges are confronted with two important dilemmas. (1) In explaining a decision, they often need to appeal to specialist knowledge that the lay person lacks, while including all procedural and material issues in the text would make this lengthy and complex (the ‘knowledge-problem’). (2) In arguing the decision, administrative judges simultaneously address several antagonists with differing interests: the civil party, the government as a party, the legal community, the jurisprudential forum, the appeals court. Arguments essentially directed at legal specialists in all these differing parties often complicate the discourse for the lay person (the ‘discussion-problem’). Time and again judges need to find a way out of both dilemmas. Prior research indicates that experienced judges develop different strategies to deal with this situation. It is not to be expected that one strategy is ideal in all cases. The judiciary therefore acknowledges the importance of a careful analysis and evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of a set of methodized variations. In this project the following questions will be answered successively: a. Which argumentative strategies are employed by a representative group of Dutch administrative judges to address the two problems? b. How do these strategies relate to the comprehensibility of the resulting texts for lay citizens? c. Do interactive references to a corpus of multimodal explanatory texts contribute to a solution to the knowledge-problem? d. Are strategies that are proven to be effective in well-defined contexts effectively transferrable? The project starts with the construction and a basic analysis of a rich corpus of oral and written judicial decisions, including reflections on the writing process, in 50 non-evident administrative cases, conducted by experienced judges (part 1). On the basis of an argumentation theoretical and legal theoretical analysis, a set of methodized strategies will be defined (part 2) to be evaluated empirically (part 3). Special attention will be given to cases that are conducted according to the guidelines formulated in the project “Nieuwe zaaksbehandeling in het bestuursrecht” (NZB) [new conduct of cases in administrative justice]. This is an ambitious project, conducted by the administrative judiciary, which will be implemented simultaneously with the start of the proposed research project and which is a major reason for the Council for the Judiciary to focus the research on administrative case law.
Period1 Dec 2011
Event titleNWO Project Begrijpelijke Taal
Event typeOther

Research programs

  • SAI 2010-01.IV RRL sub 4