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Empirical Legal Studies

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.

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.

Coordinator: Barbora Holá

Experts on this theme

Prof. Marijke Malsch LL.M.

Senior Researcher

Dr Barbora Holá LLM

Senior Researcher

Dr Annerie Smolders LL.M.


Beatriz Mayans LL.M.

PhD Candidate

Prof. Henk Elffers

Visiting Research Fellow

Iris Becx MSc

PhD Candidate

drs. Marigo Teeuwen


Dr Martha Komter

Visiting Research Fellow

Dr Nieke Elbers


Robin Kranendonk MSc

PhD Candidate

Prof. Peter van der Laan

Director a.i.


(Inter)national collaborations

Empirical Legal Studies: Recent news