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Durham University

Gender and Law at Durham

Feminist Judgments

What if a group of feminist scholars were to write the 'missing' feminist judgment in key cases?  Can we put theory into practice, in judgment form? What would these judgments look like? What impact would they have?

The Feminist Judgments Project is a dynamic and innovative research project in which a group of feminist socio-legal scholars will write alternative feminist judgments in a series of significant cases in English law. Rather than simply critiquing existing judgments, the participants will put 'theory into practice' by engaging in a practical, 'real world' exercise of judgment-writing, subject to the same constraints that bind appellate judges. The end result will be a new form of critical socio-legal scholarship, which seeks to demonstrate in a sustained and disciplined way how judgments could have been written and cases could have been decided differently.

The Feminist Judgments Project is funded by a grant from the ESRC and is being led by Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley from Durham and Rosemary Hunter (University of Kent).

July 2014 - Northern/Irish Feminist Judgments Project: Judges' Trobles: Northern/Irish Courts and the Gendered Politics of Identity

The Irish Feminist Judgments project is led by Aoife O'Donoghue (Durham Law School) Máiréad Enright (Kent Law School) and Julie McCandless (London School of Economics). The Irish project will build upon the work of the feminist judgment project already completed by Durham and Kent which worked to integrate feminist theory and judicial method, re-writing influential judgments from feminist perspectives.

The Irish project is entitled ‘Judges’ Troubles: Northern/Irish Courts and the Gendered Politics of Identity’ and inaugurates a fresh dialogue on gender, judicial power, and national identity within Ireland. In September 2012, supported by both GLAD and Durham’s University Seedcorn Fund, the first workshop of the Irish project was held here in Durham. This first workshop was well attended by academics from across the UK and Ireland; it exposed some of the questions arising out of judging in Ireland, and further supported the view of the organisers that the project is innovative, necessary and significant.

The project has three key research questions; first, whether feminist theory illuminates relationships between judging, national identities, and the (political) lives of Northern/Irish women. Second, to what extent do Northern/Irish experiences resonate with those in jurisdictions which have also inherited an English legal tradition? Finally, what methodological resources can feminist legal theory provide for critically re-imagining the judicial role in contexts of transition from conflict, colonialism and religious patriarchy? The project will produce a new anthology of judgments as well as an innovative web resource containing materials of use to both academics and civil society.

Workshops, considering each of the cases alongside panels tackling the broader questions involved in the project, are scheduled for 2014/2015:

The Foreign Subject (University of Ulster, Oct 2014) The Choosing Subject (Queen’s University Belfast, Dec 2014) The Mothering Subject (University College Cork, Feb 2015) The Embodied Subject (University College Dublin, April 2015)

The project is being conducted in collaboration with academic partners at institutions across the UK and Ireland, including Siobhán Mullaly at University College Cork, Sally Wheeler at Queens, Belfast, Catherine O'Rourke at the Transitional Justice Institute at the University of Ulster and Judy Walsh at the University College Dublin.

Full details of the project are available from its website here (www.feministjudging.ie) and you can follow the project on Twitter here (@irishfjp).

May 2013 - Feminist Judgements Project cited in as 'best practice' in major equality report

The Feminist Judgments Project has been cited as an example of good practice in promoting the equality of women by the UK’s working group report on the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. The report also praises the Equal Justices Initiative of which both McGlynn and Rackley are members. It concludes that both these projects should be 'supported and emulated'.

May 2012 - Erika Rackley speaks at the International Association of Women Judges' Conference

Dr Erika Rackley was one of five members of the feminist judgments project who spoke at the International Association of Women Judges' Biennial Conference in London. The International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization of more than 4,000 members at all judicial levels in 103 nations. Over 600 women judges from around the world attended the conference hosted by Baroness Brenda Hale, who is the current President of the IAWJ as well as the UK Association of Women Judges.

May 2012 - New Research Briefing on the Feminist Judgments Project available

Dr Erika Rackley and Professor Clare McGlynn have just published a research briefing on their work which asks whether more feminist judges would make a difference to the outcome of cases.

October 2011 - Clare McGlynn speaks at feminist judgments seminar at Norton Rose 

Professor Clare McGlynn was one of four members of the feminist judgments project who spoke at a seminar event at Norton Rose on Thursday 13 October. The event coincided with the recent launch of Norton Rose's women's legal network. Baroness Hale also spoke at the event. The event also sparked a more tangential debate about the exclusion of women from membership at the Garrrick Club. Baroness Hale's comment that 'I regard it as quite shocking that so many of my colleagues belong to the Garrick Club, but they don't see what all the fuss is about' was widely discussed in the national and international press including in The Times, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Australian.

November 2010 Feminist Judgments Book Launched and published

A collection of the feminist judgments, together with commentaries and discussion of the project, has now been published as Feminist Judgments: from theory to practice. The book was launched on 11 November 2010 at Matrix Chambers by Baroness Brenda Hale and was attended by over 80 guests including a number of prominent legal figures (Lord Mance, Baroness Scotland, Mrs Justice Dobbs, Vera Baird QC, Karon Monaghan QC), journalists (Bea Campbell and Maya Wolfe-Robinson), and key third sector organisations (Southall Black Sisters, Rights of Women).

A short article on the project was published in The Guardian see also an abridged version of the feminist judgment in the rape trials case R v A.

You can find out more about the Feminist Judgments Project on the Project's website.