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Home Postgraduate Profiles Joan Richardson

Joan Richardson

Joan Richardson

“Judges administer law in accordance with the oath taken when they are appointed and base their decisions solely on arguments and evidence presented to them in court” (UK Judicial Office, 2015).

Such claims perpetuate the cultural and legal script that judges have no ‘operative emotion’ (Herlihy & Turner, 2013) and emotions have no place in judicial decision making (Grossi, 2015). The result is a deficiency of officially endorsed research where access to judges is severely curtailed (Maroney & Gross, 2014; Rossmanith, 2013; Travers, 2007; Genn, Partington, & Wheeler, 2006). At the heart of this is a rejection of emotion with an official determination that judges will act out a role presented to the public as one of neutrality, objectivity and dispassion. This is the judicial script one which has origins in traditions dating back to ancient philosophers and carried on through history by legal positivists concerned with a sterile version of the law. Emotions are seen as unreliable and biologically primitive functions not consistent with laws persona of rationality (Grossi, 2015:55; Canton, 2015). Yet this version of justice is challenged as being a myth (Maroney, 2011, 2015) with evidence that judges not only use emotion strategically for courtroom objectives (Tata, 2007) but they express and experience emotion as part of reasoning and rationalisation of their decisions.

Far from being a sterile environment the criminal courtroom is infused with emotion, a social microcosm of human exchanges, heated interactions, pure theatre and a drama of and for social control (Levenson, 2007). The judge occupies a leading role in this drama yet little is known of his/her passions.

Using a sociological lens, specifically the dramaturgical approach (Goffman, 1959, Hochschild, 1983, Bolton, 2003) this research positions a spotlight on the judicial script, investigating the myth theory through a triangulation of methods; observations, interviews and media quotes. Findings expose alternative scripts which are already operationalised in contrast to official claims of judicial neutrality placing emotions at the heart of justice and endorsing the view that without emotion there is no justice (Solomon, 1995).


Research Degree: PhD, Full-time
Department: Sociology
Funded: MMU