This article critically evaluates the prevailing factor-oriented (e.g. a priori defined legal and extralegal characteristics of defendants) approach in analyses of judicial decision-making. Rather than assuming such factors, we aim to demonstrate how Dutch judges engage in interpretative work to arrive at various sentence types. In their interpretative work, judges attempt to weigh and compare various legal and extralegal features of defendants. Importantly, they do so in the context of the case as a whole, which means that these features do not have independent or fixed meanings. Judges select and weigh information to create an image of defendants’ redeemability. However, extralegal concerns other than redeemability also inform judges’ decisions. We argue that studying the naturally occurring interpretative work of judges results in a better understanding of judicial decision-making than outcome-oriented studies, which view criminal cases as collections of independent legal and extralegal factors.

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Keywords Judicial decision-making, sentencing type, (ir)redeemability, whole case approach
JEL Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption (jel D73), Basic Areas of Law: General (jel K10), Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior: General (jel K40)
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Journal Recht der Werkelijkheid
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Mascini, P, van Oorschot, I, Weenink, D, & Schippers, G. (2016). Understanding Judges' Choices of Sentence Types As Interpretative Work: An Explorative Study in a Dutch Police Court. Recht der Werkelijkheid, 37(1), 32–49. Retrieved from