Women Judges, Private Lives: (In)Visibilities in Fact and Fiction

16 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2018 Last revised: 7 Sep 2018

Date Written: February 11, 2018

Abstract

Once unseen, women are now visible in increasing proportions on the bench in common law courts, although this reality has generally not percolated into fictional worlds, where ‘the judge’ is invariably male. Fiona, cast by Ian McEwan as the protagonist, in The Children Act, is a notable exception. In the novel, McEwan directs our gaze beyond the traditional separation of judicial identity into public/private (visible/invisible) facets of life and raises questions regarding the impact of life on law, and law on life. This article draws on McEwan’s work to illuminate a study of how judicial swearing-in ceremonies tell the stories of Australian women judges. At first glance, this may seem an unusual pairing: The Children Act is an international best-selling work of fiction whereas the official records of court ceremonial sittings are a somewhat obscure body of work largely overlooked by scholars. However, the speeches made in welcome in open court on these occasions by members of the legal profession and by the new judge in reply, offer glimpses of the attributes of women judges not discernible in formal judgments. These ‘minor jurisprudences’ challenge the familiar gendered stereotypes found in the sovereign body of law.

Keywords: Judges Private Lives, Gender, Ian McEwan's The Children Act, Swearing-in Ceremonies

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Thornton, Margaret and Roberts, Heather, Women Judges, Private Lives: (In)Visibilities in Fact and Fiction (February 11, 2018). University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2017, 761-777; ANU College of Law Research Paper No. 18-8. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3122176

Margaret Thornton (Contact Author)

ANU College of Law ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200
Australia

Heather Roberts

ANU College of Law ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200
Australia

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