Women Judges, Private Lives: (In)Visibilities in Fact and Fiction
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.
Research theme: Constitutional Law and Theory, Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Gender, Law, Governance and Development, Legal Education, Legal History and Ethnology, Private Law, The Legal Profession