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XIONG Bingwan,WANG Junle | The Empirical Legal Research Method Based on Judgement Data —An Example from Intentional Purchasing of Defective Products
2024-02-29 [author] XIONG Bingwan,W preview:

[author]XIONG Bingwan,W


The Empirical Legal Research Method Based on Judgement Data An Example from Intentional Purchasing of Defective Products

*XIONG Bingwan, Juris Doctor, Associate Professor, School of Law, Renmin University of Chinese

* WANG Junle, a researcher at the Institute for the Rule of Law in the Future, Chinese Minmin University.

Abstract: Taking intentional purchasing of defective products as an example, this article comments on the empirical legal research method, through analyzing data extracted from judgments of punitive damages. Empirical legal research is a complete cycle, starting from normative jurisprudential problems, guided by teleology or consequentialism, deconstructing questions or concepts with problem orientation, theoretical resource and empirical evidence. It connects the legal problem with empirical information, and in turn analyzes facts better using empirical material, with the purpose of resolving relevant legal problems. Judgements are essential empirical materials. When conducting empirical researches with a large number of judgements, information can be extracted with precision from the original judgments via technologies like machine learning. At the same time, it should be noted that judgments are important yet limited representations of the legal practice activities, and it is necessary to work cautiously when using judgements for data analysis in empirical research, by assessing the validity of data rigorously and taking alternatives flexibly. Just like other field of scientific inquiry, empirical legal research does not offer a conclusive determination of the empirical world. It pursues an interpretation with higher probability and develops continuously with an open attitude.

Keywords: Empirical Research; Judgments; Information Extraction; Punitive Damages; Intentional Purchasing of Defective Products


There are three branches of empirical analysis of legal issues, one of which is the use of empirical methods to describe the workings of the legal system in the empirical world "empirical analysis of legal issues"). The purpose of empirical analysis of legal issues is to explore various facts related to "law" and describe the process and effect of "law" in the real world.Empirical analysis of legal issues is inspired by the empirical research methods of the natural sciences, but it is not simply applied. In the empirical study of law, substantive propositions (normative issues of law) are intertwined with methodological issues, observation and understanding, and are still essentially legal theoretical research. As far as the distinction between legal empirical research and normative research is concerned, the core of legal empirical research is empirical materials such as data. Empirical Legal Studies (ELS), which is used by some legal scholars in the United States to analyze quantitative data, has gradually pushed the empirical research of law to a new level.

The online disclosure of judgment documents has provided a new window for observing China's judicial operations. Although a wave of digital scholarship about Chinese courts has begun at home and abroad, some of the current empirical research results based on judgment data are still deficient in terms of field breadth, data scale, information mining depth, and data reliability disclosure.

The text of the judgment document published online is only a digital form of the judgment document, and does not realize the digitization of the judgment document information. Before analyzing the data of judgment documents, it is necessary to extract information from each judgment document and convert it into structured data that meets the needs of analysis. The extraction of information from a large number of judgment documents is inseparable from the assistance of computer technology. At present, there have been discussions on the extraction of information and the use of data in judgment documents in academic circles at home and abroad, but there is no literature that proposes a set of systematic operation methods for legal researchers.

This paper takes the issue of "knowing and buying fakes" in legal science as an example (see "Establishment of Problem Awareness" below) as an example, and takes the full amount of consumer punitive damages judgment documents as a sample, systematically discusses the process and method of extracting information from judgment documents for empirical research on law under the framework of problem awareness, and discusses the method of using judgment documents to analyze legal issues. Figure 1 shows the overall idea of empirical research on law based on judgment data.