Language, Legal Origins, and Culture Before the Courts: Cross-citations Between Supreme Courts in Europe

Mathias Siems (University of East Anglia)
Martin Gelter (Fordham University)

Abstract: How often and in which circumstances do courts from different jurisdictions cite each other? In this paper we present new data on cross-citations between the supreme courts of ten European countries. It is based on decisions of these supreme courts from 2000 to 2007. In total we have searched 636,172 decisions and found 1,430 instances in which these courts have cited the supreme courts of the other nine countries. Whether such citations take place and in what quantity depends on the particular legal culture and its relationship to others. We use regression analysis in order to interpret the cross-citations between supreme courts. We find that language skills, membership in the same legal family, cultural factors, economic indicators, and the population size of the cited country all matter for which countries are cited. In the terms of the New Institutional Economics we are therefore able to confirm a link between the social and cultural foundations of institutions (i.e., the first level of Williamson’s classification) and the way how formal institutions, like the legal system, operate.

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