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

  • Barbora Holá (coordinator)
  • Iris Becx
  • Nieke Elbers
  • Henk Elffers
  • Martha Komter
  • Robin Kranendonk
  • Peter van der Laan
  • Marijke Malsch
  • Beatriz Mayans
  • Annerie Smolders
  • Marigo Teeuwen


Michael Tonry (University of Minnesota)
Arno Akkermans (VU University Amsterdam)
Eileen Yuk-ha Tsang (City University of Hong Kong)

(Inter)national collaborations

Leiden University (prof. Jan de Keijser)
La Trobe University (prof. Patrick Keyzer)
University of Melbourne (prof. Ian Freckelton)
University of Cyprus (prof. Andreas Kapardis)
VU University Amsterdam (dr. Sonja Meijer, mr. dr. Bas de Wilde, prof. Lonneke Stevens)

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