The application of judicial intelligence and "rules" to systems supporting discretionary judicial decision-making

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25 Citations (Scopus)


This article critically examines approaches to the production of systems of support for discretionary judicial decision-making in sentencing. The aim of the article is to attempt to illuminate the character of discretionary judicial decision-making and how academic research has informed the attempt to model the exercise of judicial discretion. Briefly placing the development of decision
support systems for judicial sentencing in the context of world-wide themes in sentencing reform, the article proceeds to focus on various attempts to produce systems of decision support for sentencing. It then briefly explores two of the key issues (‘impact’ and ‘institutional authority’) which may determine the future support of such systems. If systems of decision support for judges are to have
a future then they must not only be accepted at an institutional level, but also be seen as valuable by those for whom they are designed. Thus, the application of ‘judicial intelligence’ is unavoidable. Underlying the judicial sentencing decision process is some conception of ‘similarity’ between cases. How, then, should this ‘similarity’ be represented? Traditionally, representations of similarity have tended to be informed by ‘the legal-analytical’ paradigm. The supposedly basic building blocks of case information (‘offence’ and ‘offender’ and ‘aggravating and mitigating’ factors) are critically considered. It is argued that systems based on a ‘legal-analytical’ paradigm are limited in their representation of the decision process. These limitations, it is suggested, may be overcome by adopting an approach which tries to represent the informal schema of understanding which decision-makers employ and the holistic way in which they think about a case. It is argued, therefore, that judicial decision-making is amenable to modelling through the use of computer technology, but that there is
a need to re-model our conception of judicial ‘intelligence’ on which such technology relies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-230
Number of pages27
JournalArtificial Intelligence and Law
Issue number2-4
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • judicial intelligence
  • judicial decision making
  • sentencing


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