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The Case Law of the European Court of Justice in Three Dimensions: Empirical Perspectives on the Role of Case Law in EU Law

Mattias Derlén, Johan Lindholm

The case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is one of the most important sources of European Union law, playing a crucial role in the development and function of the Union legal system. However, when it comes to the methodology of the CJEU and the role of case law existing legal research often lack clear answers, being limited to generalisations based on examples. By combining traditional legal methods with empirical methods and network analysis fresh perspectives can be offered. This paper takes its point of departure in the common assumption in legal science that the role of case law as a source of law differs depending on case characteristics. Using empirical methods this assumption can be fruitfully examined. Based on a data set that includes all CJEU judgment between 1954 and 2011, we explore the correlation between, on one hand, how the Court uses its own case law as a source of law as measured by various network centrality measures (primarily Indegree, PageRank, and Hub score) and, on the other hand, three case specific factors: the type of action, the actors involved in the case, and the subject matter of the case. By using this approach, the study will for the first time empirically test and quantify the role of CJEU case law in different situations.

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