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Grant awarded to COI PhD candidates for research on politically sensitive cases and trust in judges

PhD candidates from Institutions for Conflict Resolution (COI), Eva Grosfeld (Leiden University), Marlou Overheul (Utrecht University), and Amarins Jansma (social psychology, Utrecht University), won the KLI seed money grant for research on the influence of politically sensitive cases on public trust in judges.

The Kurt Lewin Institute, where all three PhD candidates are members, is a centre for graduate training that aims to strengthen social psychological research and its applications. PhD candidates may apply for funding to undertake innovative research outside of their PhD projects in order to stimulate cooperation between young researchers from different universities.

Eva, Marlou, and Amarins won the KLI seed money grant with their proposal ‘Too controversial for the court? How politically sensitive cases affect public trust in judges’. In this interdisciplinary research, they will investigate how politically sensitive cases, and specifically the presentation thereof in the media (for example as ‘activistic’) can influence public trust in judges.

The research is highly novel and relevant as judges are increasingly asked to rule in cases that are politically sensitive. This may have effects on citizens’ trust in legal authorities, while trust is required for the effective administration of justice in politically sensitive cases. Over the past years, legal scholars have suggested that there is a negative relationship between trust in judges and politically sensitive cases. However, this relationship has never been empirically investigated before.

The empirical research that Eva, Marlou, and Amarins propose will investigate this relationship and aims to contribute both to fundamental social psychological understandings of trust and to normative, legal discussions on the role of the judge.

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