The Coding Project

Coding the outcomes of 10.250 judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union (Bi-annual project)

Scientific summary

The Court of Justice delivers binding interpretations of European Union law. The outcomes significantly affect policy makers, judiciary, and European citizens. Political scientists typically reduce the outcomes to pro or anti-European to gain an overview of judicial action. Lawyers remain skeptical of these accounts but do not provide an alternative account that would illuminate the legal complexity of the judicial process. This is precisely the aim of this project, which combines a systematic approach with detailed legal coding. It compiles a comprehensive database of judicial outcomes and remedies of 10.250 judgments. Thereby it opens new avenues for original interdisciplinary research.

Research question(s)

The main contribution of the project is 1) a database of outcomes and remedies of the judgments of the Court of Justice and 2) the accompanying codebook. This database and the codebook will be merged with the existing database, previously compiled by the applicant, and used to answer two questions:

  • Can the Court in one judgment, resolving a particular dispute between two parties or offering a particular interpretation of Union law, accommodate and protect various, even conflicting, interests? In other words, can one judgment have many outcomes?
  • Which particular interests do the judgments of the Court promote and frustrate, and do they vary over time and policy areas? More concretely, do they favor individual (individual rights), general, national, private, public European, integrationist, security, market, social, welfare, consumer, competition, labor or other interests?

The ambition is that the project will expand to include the coding of legal positions of the main interlocutors of the Court (the Advocates General, the European institutions and the national governments), depending however on the access to the documents that are not publicly available in such scope (such as the observations of national governments). The latter will hopefully be achieved by involving the Historical Archives of the European Union at the EUI.


The main relevance and contribution of the project is:

The project will provide a key working tool to research projects which can supply empirical evidence of immediate use to decision makers and practitioners that have to take informed decisions about proposed legislation, legislative initiatives, and the practical impact of European and international norms and practices of courts and legal institutions;

The project will foster interdisciplinary dialogue between academics who often engage in turf wars rather than constructive academic dialogues to the detriment of dissemination of their findings to the general public and the impact of their research on the decision making of political and judicial institutions, national and international;

The project can untangle the interaction of political institutions (national and European) and judicial institutions, and provide a more accurate understanding of how democracy is practiced in the EU;

Address the lack of understanding of what the Court is actually deciding and how the outcomes can be interpreted and what kind of task the Court has to accomplish and under what circumstances. A gap between the public and academic expectations on the one hand and the ability and the capacity of the Court to meet these expectations on the other hand is widening in the current political context, marked not only by Brexit and populism but by a growing distrust in elites, including judicial elites. The project can contribute to criticism of EU institutions, especially the Court, which has a strong empirical (factual) basis.

People involved

Urška Šadl, Professor at the European University Institute, Florence

Irene Otero, PhD researcher at the European University Institute, Florence

Sabine Mair, PhD researcher at the European University Institute, Florence

Davide Morisi, Postdoctoral researcher at the European University Institute, Florence, and Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Vienna, Vienna