Scientific Research Project Title

Judging under the influence: A critical review of the influence of legal actors on the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union

Research Institution

University of Copenhagen

iCourts Centre of Excellence for International Courts
and European University Institute, Florence

RESEARCH FIELD

European union law

CONTACT INFO

Phone: [+39] 055 4686 363 / 275 
E-mail: Urska.Sadl@EUI.eu & Urska.sadl@jur.ku.dk 

Research leader

URŠKA ŠADL

PhD, Professor

Project title

Judging Under the Influence: Who does the Court of Justice of the European Union listen to when it makes law for Europe?  

What is your project about?

The project is about how law and society interact through courts. It focuses on the Court of Justice, the highest judicial authority of the European Union legal system. Its decisions affect hundreds of institutions throughout the European Union, thousands of policy makers and millions of citizens. Any yet, we know little about how the Court makes these decisions. The projects seeks to address this gap in our knowledge. It will answer the question how legal actors, such as officials acting on behalf of national goverments, or the judges of national supreme courts, influence the ways in which the Court translates societal conflics about the economy (like a minimum wage), social protection (like unemployment benefits), or private life (like the right to change one’s gender), into the legal argument about competence, rights and obligations. 

How did you become interested in your particular field of research?

I have always been fascinated by courts as institutions that use language to make law while insisting that they are only interpreting the law made by the legislators. What a paradox! In the case of the European Union, the Court, which sits in Luxembourg, makes law for Citizens of 28 Member States. It tells 28 sovereign states what duties they have toward each other, the Union, and their own citizens. This raises (as it should!) questions and eyebrows of its modus operandi. But it also raises questions of judicial authority in the face of political power, public opinion and academic scrutiny, which I want to answer. 

What are the scientific challenges and perspectives in your project?

The first big challenge is access to data. The second and bigger challenge is technical: how to process the data. The third and the biggest challenge is how to convince legal scholars that law can be studied using data and machine learning. 

What is your estimate of the impact, which your project may have to society in the long term?

I hope to contribute to the understanding of courts as law making institutions in democratic societies, which are not neutral when it comes to enforcing societal values and policy goals. I also want to raise the consciousness of what it implies to be European when it comes to law and legal and political institutions.

I wish to contribute to the awareness of law students that law is not a system of norms, immune to its political, social, and economic context. While the idea is not revolutionary, it is not implemented in law schools. There are no tools incorporated in the legal education and training which would give the students a way to understand, investigate and apply the law as a crucial part of society. The move is simple – from moralizing to analyzing, from opinions to facts. 

Which impact do you expect the Sapere Aude programme will have on your career as a researcher?

Most of all, I expect that the Sapere Aude grant will strengthen the credibility of my research and increase the relevance of legal empirical and interdisciplinary research. 

It will give me a possibility to train young, open minded and ambitious researchers and work with previously unavailable legal sources using new and exciting methods. 

Background and personal life

It is difficult to talk about a person behind the researcher. My research defines me and challenges me just as much as I, as an individual, express and contest my research. So far it has been a rewarding relationship. It has taken me to many different places and engaged me in ways that were unthinkable before I started engaging scientifically with courts and legal change. 

City of current residence
Copenhagen & Florence  

High school
International Baccalaureate Program at II Gimnazija Maribor (Slovenia)