CSH Talk by Fabian Windbacher: “Towards Quantifying Institutions: Embedding United States Courts Of Appeals Opinions”

Apr 15, 2022 | 15:0016:00

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This talk will be presented by CSH collaborator Fabian Windbacher (TU Vienna) and will take place on Friday, April 15 at 3 pm in a hybrid format.


Please send us an email if you want to attend the talk.


Title: “Towards Quantifying Institutions: Embedding United States Courts Of Appeals Opinions”



The foundation of modern societies is institutions like governments, corporations, and even emergent social communities. We might think of institutions as singular entities, but they are composed of multitudes of disparate people, documents, and traditions. While we have an intuitive sense of what institutions are, they are hard to define. To remedy that, we aim to ground our intuition on a well-documented and relatively stable model system, the United States Courts of Appeals.

Importantly, the system consists of an ensemble of several nominally independent courts, which permits a comparative study.

I will focus on a central aspect of this institution, the judges’ written opinions, and explore ways of representing them in a meaningful way. I use text embedding techniques to map the textual features into descriptive document vectors. I characterize the results of popular methods like Doc2Vec and Legal-BERT. I will show how we evaluate the embeddings in terms of their predictive ability, alignment with the citation structure, and qualitative sensibility


Apr 15, 2022