Querying the Gender Dynamics of Interruptions at Australian Oral Argument
UNSW Law Journal Forum, 2020
19 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2020
Date Written: August 26, 2020
In a recent study, ‘Female Judges, Interrupted: A Study of Interruption Behavior during Oral Argument in the High Court of Australia’, Amelia Loughland presents findings that over 90% of interruptions in High Court oral argument were committed by male advocates, with female advocates very seldom interrupting. However, Loughland’s study has a limited sample size of 45 cases across two and a half Terms of the Court. In this response, we explore whether Loughland’s conclusions hold when looking beyond her sample, and examine 25 years of oral argument in the High Court, from 1995–2019. We also employ more formal statistical methods to test whether there is a gender effect at High Court oral argument, or whether the effects that Loughland identifies may be a product of other factors relevant to interruption behavior, such as experience, the length of oral argument, the amount that a justice speaks, and the role of the Chief Justice. Contrary to Loughland, we find that there is no bias against female High Court justices. We also find no support for the claim that male Chief Justices reduce the rate of interruption of female justices. We show this first using simple graphs, illustrating that the small sample that Loughland examined is not representative of the overall trends occurring at High Court oral argument. Finally, we use multivariate regression to more formally test our findings.
Keywords: Law and Courts, High Court of Australia, Empirical Legal Studies
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