Artificial Intelligence and Law

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 333–355 | Cite as

A network approach to the French system of legal codes—part I: analysis of a dense network

  • Romain BouletEmail author
  • Pierre Mazzega
  • Danièle Bourcier


We explore one aspect of the structure of a codified legal system at the national level using a new type of representation to understand the strong or weak dependencies between the various fields of law. In Part I of this study, we analyze the graph associated with the network in which each French legal code is a vertex and an edge is produced between two vertices when a code cites another code at least one time. We show that this network distinguishes from many other real networks from a high density, giving it a particular structure that we call concentrated world and that differentiates a national legal system (as considered with a resolution at the code level) from small-world graphs identified in many social networks. Our analysis then shows that a few communities (groups of highly wired vertices) of codes covering large domains of regulation are structuring the whole system. Indeed we mainly find a central group of influent codes, a group of codes related to social issues and a group of codes dealing with territories and natural resources. The study of this codified legal system is also of interest in the field of the analysis of real networks. In particular we examine the impact of the high density on the structural characteristics of the graph and on the ways communities are searched for. Finally we provide an original visualization of this graph on an hemicyle-like plot, this representation being based on a statistical reduction of dissimilarity measures between vertices. In Part II (a following paper) we show how the consideration of the weights attributed to each edge in the network in proportion to the number of citations between two vertices (codes) allows deepening the analysis of the French legal system.


Dense graph Network Concentrated world Legal code Codified legal system Communities 



We are very grateful to Mme Elisabeth Catta, Rapporteur for the Higher Commission for Codification, for her interest in our work and for her helpful comments. R. Boulet has benefited from a post doctoral grant of the Institut National des Sciences de l’Univers (CNRS, Paris). This study was funded by the RTRA Sciences et Techniques de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace ( in Toulouse (MAELIA project— The yEd Graph editor has been used for producing the Figs. 1, 4, 5 and 6. Statistical properties of networks have been computed with R and the library igraph (; Figs. 2 and 3 were obtained with R.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Romain Boulet
    • 1
    Email author
  • Pierre Mazzega
    • 2
    • 3
  • Danièle Bourcier
    • 4
  1. 1.UMR ESPACE-DEV, IRDMontpellierFrance
  2. 2.Laboratoire Mixte International Observatoire des Changements Environnementaux, UnB/IRDUniversidade de BrasiliaBrasiliaBrazil
  3. 3.UPS (OMP), CNRS, IRD, Geosciences Environnement ToulouseUniversité de ToulouseToulouseFrance
  4. 4.CERSA CNRSUniversité de Paris 2ParisFrance

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