The power of courts to change law via case law is among the most persistent and contested themes in the study of courts. In this article we empirically investigate whether the Court of Justice of the European Union (the Court) is constrained by its case law, and whether this can have a legitimatizing effect on its decision making. In contrast to previous literature on citation networks, which takes into account entire documents in constructing citation networks, we build a network of references to individual paragraphs of judgments, and their adjacent texts. We then analyze the paragraph texts with the aid of keyword extraction and topic modelling. Our findings can explain the legal relevance of citations and cited cases, as well as their normative force.
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