Feminist Judging: Northern/Irish Perspectives

Feminist Judging: Northern/Irish Perspectives

Feminist judging requires scholars to take up the judicial role to re-write important legal judgments from a feminist perspective. It demands that feminist critique and theoretical insights are “put into practice”, producing uniquely accessible and powerful models of alternative judicial technique (Hunter et.al, 2010; Davies, 2012). The methodology requires significant collaboration. In adopting the judicial role, participants are required to rework the cases within the  accepted traditions of legal reasoning and judicial decision-making. This will inevitably take academics beyond their usual research and writing techniques. As such, intensive “in person” Drafting Workshops will be required to ensure that the re-written cases are of a rigorous standard.

Our Drafting Workshops follow the pattern established by Hunter, Rackley and McGlynn. Project participants are organised into Feminist Judge and Commentator pairs. Their respective roles will be to re-write the selected case and to provide a contextual commentary. Each pair will attend one of four Drafting Workshops, where a draft of the re-written case and commentary will be extensively discussed and commented upon by other Project participants (who will act as Discussants with legal expertise), as well as a practising judge and a number of invited speakers from disciplines other than law. We are inviting speakers from disciplines such as sociology, history, politics, literature studies and social anthropology, and whose research has focussed on judging, litigation, identity and/or representations thereof in Irish society. The Drafting Workshops are therefore an essential formative component of the overall research design; in other words, they are integral to the “doing” of the research and a key component of the methodology. Judges and Commentators will then rework drafts in light of workshop discussions and submit them to the editorial process.

Our research questions include:

• How have the processes of litigation and judging policed and contested the boundaries of Northern/Irish collective national identities?
• What gendered legal concepts emerge at the intersection of Northern/Irish identity politics and judicial method?
• What different legal outcomes might have been produced through the deployment of feminist legal judging methodologies?
• How can feminist legal theory contribute to a re-thinking of gendered judicial reasoning techniques and legal concepts in Ireland and Northern Ireland?
• Do the methods employed by existing feminist judging projects lend themselves to examination of the role of the judge in societal contexts of separation, transition from colonialism, conflict and competing religious-cultural claims? If not, how can they be re-imagined?

Our series of of four Drafting Workshops is planned for the 2014-15 academic year at universities in Ireland and Northern Ireland. In 2016 we will publish an anthology of the rewritten cases. The publication is being planned to coincide with the centenary of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and the sequence of historical events which resulted in the eventual partition of Ireland. While there will be many events across the Island of Ireland to mark this history, relatively few will focus on the role of women – or gender – in the history of Irish society and the construction of national and political identities. It is our aim to use this Project to reinvigorate societal debate about the role of gender in contemporary Irish society, particularly in relation to the judiciary and litigation. This is an urgent debate to be had; we still have no senior female judges in Northern Ireland, while senior members of the judiciary in Ireland have recently expressed concerns about the role of political allegiance, to include its gendered affects, in the judicial appointments process (Judicial appointments Review Committee, 2014). Meanwhile, the rights and needs of Irish women continue to be inadequately provided for by legal processes (see Enright, 2014).

The photograph is of the fairy judge Aoibheal, as depicted in Queen of Puddings’ opera of The Midnight Court.

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