Past Research: Jurisprudence

Ever since I studied philosophy I was fascinated by judges – by their power, discretion and responsibility towards the society at large. I graduated from a BA in philosophy of law with a thesis on the internal and external constraints upon judicial discretion. I then graduated from an MA in legal and political theory with a dissertation which argued that jurisprudence and empirical judicial studies must collaborate into accurately depicting the role and duties of a judge in the 21th century. While genuinely interested in jurisprudence topics such as legal reasoning, the concept of law, judicial discretion, law and morality, I have suffered an ’empirical turn’ during the past few years, being more and more influenced by legal Realism and by ‘descriptive jurisprudence’ rather than ‘normative jurisprudence’. This is why I have decided to ‘get my hands dirty’ and do some legal empirical research of my own. For all my past research please visit my Academia.edu webpage.

This article aims to inform judges, legal scholars and philosophers of law on new developments in psychology and neuroscience that prove judicial “hunches” or intuitions are all-pervading in judicial decision-making. Unlike the “legal reasoning” paradigm taught in law schools and in judicial training, which overemphasises the rational, conscious, syllogistic nature of reasoning, new theories show that intuitions naturally take place in all minds that have amassed enough professional expertise.

More particularly, this essay argues that intuitions appear in judges’ minds in all types of cases, easy or hard, at all levels of the judiciary; and that this is neither something to ignore not something to denigrate. Neurological and psychological research shows intuitions are not necessarily irrational and unwanted, but most likely the most effective way in which the judge’s brain adapts to the immense pressures of the job – be it increasing workloads, limited time to spend on a case, or the limited information available. This article aims to change the paradigm in judicial decision-making by making judicial intuitions reasonable, accepted, and even desirable.

When Judges Have a Hunch: Intuition and Experience in Judicial Decision-Making

The work under review is H.L.A. Hart’s The Concept of Law, which for the past 60 years has fueled debate in jurisprudence. The current analysis proceeds from Hart’s description of methodology in the book’s preface, where he declares that “the book may also be regarded as an essay in descriptive sociology” (Preface vi). Starting with this claim, this essay assesses Hart’s methodology and suggests that he partially fails to provide a purely descriptive account of law, as he introduces normative elements in his description. Descriptive Methods in Jurisprudence - Normative Aspects of Hart's Methodology in A Concept of Law

In both philosophical thought and jurisprudential theorisation, emotion is a renegade –uncontrollable and dangerous. The most successful theories on human action are considered those who display man as a rational agent, with strategic goals and endeavours. This essay aims to raise a challenge to the philosophical status quo by arguing that emotion can also be the good cop in the story. With particular regard to the judicial decision-making process, we actually think intuitively of judges not as mere robots who apply unambiguous laws to clear-cut cases (if it were so, we would’t need them after all), but as intelligent beings who bring their share of humanity when making life-affecting decisions. The idea that emotion can be a useful device is not new – it has been put forward by Robert Frank (1988) and later brought to light by Jon Elster (2000). Elster’s (and Frank’s) work shall serve here as theoretical framework for arguing that emotions can be thought of as successful devices for precommitment against “too much rationality”. The original turn of this essay is to provide a concrete application of this idea onto judicial activity. The Role of Emotion in Judicial Decision-Making

Current Research: Judicial Studies

I am currently running a socio-legal research on the attitudes and expectations of judges towards the judicial training they receive in criminal law, based on their level of expertise. The research was so far conducted in one European jurisdiction (470 respondents) and aims to be extended to other jurisdictions as well. This research is part of my doctorate in law at University College London, and I am kindly supported by UCL Laws. I have now completed my fieldwork (observation sessions, semi-structured interviews with trainers and trainees and a large-scale survey on hundreds of judges and prosecutors) and the data analysis stage and I am writing up my findings. If you would like to explore any research collaborations please drop me a line at research@dianarichards.co.uk

This paper aims to present an innovative type of empirical research in judicial studies. It focuses on assessing the attitudes and perceptions judges have towards the way they learn how to sentence throughout the course of their judicial careers. The first main assumption is that judges learn all throughout their lives, both through the formal training offered and other informal sources of learning (such as the practice of sentencing, or peer advice). The second main assumption is that the judges’ learning needs and perceptions towards training change as they gain more experience and they are exposed to various learning contexts. So far the study was conducted in one European jurisdiction (Romania), totalling 510 judicial respondents ranging from 0 to 40 years judicial experience. This paper presents the findings with regards to their views on the judicial training they receive.Learning to Sentence: An Empirical Study of Judicial Attitudes towards Judicial Training in Romania

Learning to Sentence: A European Study of Judicial Attitudes and Perceptions Towards Judicial Training

Research on Judicial Conflict Resolution

I have just concluded my position as UK Lead Researcher in the European Research Council (ERC)-funded international research project “Judicial Conflict Resolution” taking place in 3 world jurisdictions for 5 years. The project’s Principal Investigator is Prof Michal Alberstein from Bar-Ilan University. My role began in Oct 2015 and ended in Dec 2016. I was in charge with conducting preliminary desk research on judicial conflict resolution framework and practices in the UK, in all trial courts, in all areas of law (civil and criminal). I gathered, reviewed and reported on 470+ documents (legislation, caselaw, reforms, statistical information, academic research). I have reported my findings at the Law and Society Conference 2016 (New Orleans USA), the Biennial Meeting of the International WorkingGroup for the Legal Profession 2016 (Andorra), and as an invited speaker at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies 2017 (London, UK)

Research on EU Judicial Diversity

I have assisted Prof Sally Wheeler and a larger research team from Queen’s University Belfast in researching professional diversity and gender equality across EU states. My bit looked at judicial diversity across all EU judiciaries, with a focus on specific regulations and policies encouraging gender diversity and female participation. I have gathered and reviewed almost 400 documents. I presented some of the findings at the Judicial Appointments Commission Anniversary Conference taking place in Nov 2015 at Birmingham University.

Research on ethical dilemmas of professionals in virtual environments

I have assisted Dr Sylvie Delacroix (UCL Laws) and an interdisciplinary team from across UCL reuniting experts in neuroscience, law, medicine and computer science. The project aims to build experiments in virtual environments (Oculus Rift technology) to test if legal and medical professionals react to morally problematic situations differently depending on their level of expertise. My task was to transcribe and code the video recordings of the experiments on medical professionals.