The art of legal writing: A quantitative analysis of Russian Constitutional Court rulings

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Author: Aryna Dmitryieva

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2017-3-125-133

Keywords: «ясный» язык; количественный анализ текста; решения Конституционного Суда; сложность способа выражения; читабельность текста


Quantitative text analysis is a new but rapidly expanding and promising field in empirical legal studies. This paper applies the methods of quantitative studies of legal texts to the decisions of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. The analysis uses the formal quantitative index of the plainness of texts, namely the Flesh-Kincaid index, in order to understand to what degree the readability of the Court rulings correlates with various applicant categories and how the Court considers various cases and reacts to various challenges. The author surveyed 473 decisions issued between 1992 and 2015; a thorough analysis of this material constitutes the core of this study. The author finds that the overall complexity of the text of the Constitutional Court’s decisions is high and demands a high degree of competence from the reader. The paper also shows that the complexity of the decisions has been steadily increasing since the first decision of the Court was issued in 1992. It also finds that, all else being equal, the complexity of the language of decisions highly correlates with the type of applicants and types of issues that appeared before the Court. When compared to ordinary civil complaints, the Court uses more complex language when addressing cases initiated by business or by governmental bodies. This paper finds a similar though weaker trend when comparing issues on social and labour law with other topics. The author concludes that the increasing linguistic complexity of the decisions of the Constitutional Court may negatively influence the enforceability and implementation of these decisions, as well as increase the risk that such complex legal writing will spread throughout legal community.

About the author: Aryna Dmitryieva – Researcher, The Institute for the Rule of Law, European University at Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Citation: Dmitryieva A. (2017) “Iskusstvo yuridicheskogo pis’ma”: kolichestvennyy analiz resheniy Konstitutsionnogo Suda Rossiyskoy Federatsii [The art of legal writing: a quantitative analysis of the Russian Constitutional Court rulings]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, no.3, pp.125–133. (In Russian).


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