International conferences

Dr. habil. Mátyás Bencze
Dr. habil. Mátyás Bencze

What is Law for?
5th MetaLawEcon conference

This year the University of Debrecen Faculty of Law hosts the 5th MetaLawEcon conference between 11-12th December 2014. The topic for this year is 'What is law for?'
Program is  available here.

Map to conference venue.

How to Measure the Quality of Judicial Reasoning

Joint conference of the Law School of University of Debrecen and the HAS Centre for Social Sciences Institute for Legal Studies
Organisers: Mátyás Bencze, Ágnes Kovács and Krisztina Ficsor

Planned date and venue: 28-29 November 2014 (Friday-Saturday), University of Debrecen, School of Law, Debrecen, Hungary
University of Debrecen, Faculty of Law Map

Program of the conference


You may live stream the whole event under the following link:

Aim of the conference: In the past two decades various ‘external’ (public trust, satisfaction, affordability and accessibility etc) and ‘internal’ or ‘formal’ (timeliness, fairness of judicial process, independence and accountability of courts) benchmarks have been worked out for the assessment of the quality of judicial activity. The question remains, however, whether we can measure the quality of the actual judicial reasoning at all.

This question is important on the one hand from a purely academic point of view: if there are methods to measure it, then traditional depictions of judicial activity as some kind of art (ars boni et aequi) or the manifestation of the mystical ‘judicial wisdom’ becomes unconvincing. If we can measure the quality of legal argumentation then we will be able to evaluate decisions of the judiciary and hold its members accountable in the case that their reasoning is considered unsatisfactory, in the same way that the work of other professions is also held up to scrutiny. A convincing methodology to measure the quality of judicial reasoning could possibly shift our paradigm of how we think about law in general.

Besides the academic interest, the issue is relevant also from a very practical point of view: the objective measurement of the quality of work spreads not only in academia (as we all know and some of us rather dislike this) but also seems unstoppable within the judiciary. The usual crude methods (e.g., number of judgments, hours of sitting, number of reversed cases on appeal) do not seem, however, to be able to reflect convincingly the real quality of a judge’s work.

We are interested in both the academic literature and the practice of judicial organisations in several European countries, i.e., among others, in questions such as: What is expected from judicial reasoning? Is there a general concept of good quality with regard to judicial reasoning? Is it spelled out in any legal documents (statutes, internal judicial guidelines, appellate cases)? If not then how are these requirements enforced? Are there any attempts to measure the quality of judicial quality? If yes, then is it rather a peer review method, a numerical measurement or a mixture of these? Are judges expected to pay attention to the parties’ arguments or to societal expectations? If they pay attention, are they also expected to mention explicitly these expectations in their judgments? What is the self-understanding of judges that can be seen from judgments: protectors of rights, mouthpieces of the law, mediators, guardians of justice or something different?

The purpose of the first day of the conference is to build a network of colleagues throughout Europe in order to launch a major research project on the topic. The Debrecen conference would be the first in a series of events in the coming years.


Zenon Bankowski (United Kingdom, University of Edinburgh) – keynote speech on possibility of quality assessment of judicial reasoning

Markku Kiikeri (Finland, University of Lapland) – Scandinavia
Francesco Contini (Italy, Research Institute on Judicial Systems) – Italy
Arthur Dyevre (Belgium, Catholic University Leuven) – France
Gar Yein Ng (United Kingdom, Independent Researcher) – United Kingdom
Norman Weiß (Germany, University of Potsdam) – Germany
Zdeněk Kühn (Czech Republic, Charles University in Prague) – Central and Eastern Europe

Roundtable Discussion on the General Methodological Problems of Measuring the Quality of Judicial Activity


Philip Langbroek (The Netherlands, Utrecht University)
Zoltán Fleck (Hungary, Eötvös Loránd University)
Nicolaas Bel (European Commission)
Mariusz J. Golecki (University of Debrecen, Hungary; University of Łódź, Poland)

The following day of the conference is dedicated to establishing the possibility of implementing an adequate quality-control system for adjudication through a deeper political and legal philosophical analysis of the nature of judicial activity. Where does adjudication stand between political decision-making and a professional activity? Can we measure the quality of adjudication in cases which might have serious political implications? What are the factors that courts can legitimately take into consideration when adjudicating legal claims (e.g. pressure from the mass and digital media)? These questions touch upon the issue of the proper balance between the idea of ‘fidelity to law’ and the judicial tasks of achieving substantive justice and providing legal remedies to rights claimants.

Case studies and theoretical explanations of these issues (in different contexts, such as theory of adjudication, ‘virtue jurisprudence’, legal sociology and moral philosophy) are equally welcome by either scholars or legal practitioners.

The conference is organised by the European and International Law Department, the Philosophy of Law Department and the Civil Procedure Department.

Suggested hotels in Debrecen:

Hotel Divinus*****
Hotel Óbester****
Hotel Lycium****
Korona Panzió
Amulett Vendégház

Please contact the hotels directly. List is based on room prices (from most expensive to less expensive).