Empirical Legal Studies Cluster

The cluster Empirical Legal Studies (ELS) conducts empirical studies that focus on the operations of the legal system in a broad sense: civil, administrative as well as criminal justice. Research topics of relevance within this cluster are for instance divorce law and practice; the role of administrative bodies in decision making in criminal matters; the use of written documents, image and sound in legal cases; victims’ roles and wishes regarding legal processes; and mediation.

Theoretical perspectives

Relevant theories in this cluster are: the theory of Procedural Justice, theoretical notions regarding the respective roles of the legislator, the judiciary and the administrative bodies (Trias Politica), recent changes in the relative importance of these roles, and the consequences thereof for principles of fair trial, the quality of decisions in the legal system, theories on human rights and on the role of the victim (Restorative Justice).

Research focus and methods

The cluster is narrowly related to, and actively seeks cooperation with, the legal field: police, (defense) lawyers, the prosecution service, the probation service, judiciary, administrative bodies, etcetera. Cluster members also collaborate with a national steering group, composed of members of the judiciary and scholars from several national universities, that aims to stimulate empirical legal research in the Netherlands. Studies in this cluster are by their very nature multidisciplinary. Research methods are both qualitative and quantitative, and the cluster aims to conduct experimental and quantitative approaches are not neglected.



Cluster members

  • Marijke Malsch (coordinator)
  • Nieke Elbers
  • Henk Elffers
  • Robin Kranendonk
  • Peter van der Laan
  • Marigo Teeuwen


Michael Tonry (University of Minnesota)
Arno Akkermans (VU University Amsterdam)

(Inter)national collaborations

Cluster members collaborate with:
Leiden University (prof. Jan de Keijser)
La Trobe University (prof. Patrick Keyzer)
University of Melbourne (prof. Ian Freckelton)
VU University Amsterdam (dr. Sonja Meijer)

Decreasing role of the judiciary: is replacing the judge possible and desirable?

Judges are increasingly often replaced by other bodies. Less serious criminal cases are dealt with by the police, the public prosecutor or...
Read more

Added value of palm prints for investigating crimes

Palm marks provide more information about the crime than finger marks or DNA according to research from NSCR and VU Amsterdam. Palm...
Read more
Visit news archive