UCL Faculty of Laws


Judges, Courts and Judicial Decision-Making (LAWS0312)

This innovative module explores the crucial role judges and courts play in the modern state, and it provides students with a unique opportunity to understand what it is like to be a judge, how judges make decisions, what skills they require and what pressures and controversies they face.

The foundation of the course is Judicial Studies: the empirical study of judicial decision-making, which incorporates law-related scholarship from other disciplines such as political science, psychology, economics and neuroscience.  The module looks at the foundations of the empirical understanding of how and why judges make decisions.  It covers the judicial role; how judges are selected; what skills are required to be a good judge; how representative the judiciary is; how judges are trained and develop their careers; and the future of judging in a digital world. It is an active participatory module, where students gain first-hand experience of judicial decision-making through a series of Hands-On Judicial Decision-Making Seminars including the opportunity to act as judges in different types of cases.  Leading judges and experts share their knowledge with students through the course's Special Judicial Guest Seminars.  And when it is possible to arrange, students have the opportunity to attend court proceedings.

Module Syllabus

This module will be structured as follows:

  • Judges, Decision-Making and Democracy
  • Judicial Studies: The Cutting-Edge Empirical Study of Judges & Courts
  • How Can We Understand How Judges Make Decisions?
  • Judicial Appointments and Diversity
  • Judging in Different Courts and Jurisdictions
  • The Public as Judges: Trial by Jury
  • Reason & Emotion in Judicial Sentencing

Recommended Materials

Individual seminar reading lists and other course materials will be provided via the online module page, available at the beginning of term once students have enrolled.

Preliminary Reading

Two module readings can be downloaded are:

Lawrence Baum, Judges and Their Audiences: A Perspective on Judicial Behaviour, Chapter 1, Princeton University Press (2006) - http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8323.pdf

Cheryl Thomas, Are Juries Fair? Ministry of Justice Research Series 10 (2010) - https://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/research-and-analysis/moj-research/are-juries-fair-research.pdf

Key information

Module details
Credit value:22.5 Credits (225 learning hours)
Convenor:David Ormerod; Cheryl Thomas
Other Teachers:Judicial Guests
Teaching Delivery:Face to Face Seminar
Who may enrol:LLM Students Only


Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:LLM in Law and Social Justice;
LLM in Human Rights Law;
LLM in Litigation and Dispute Resolution;
LLM in Public Law
Practice Assessment:TBD
Final Assessment:3,000 Word Essay (100%)