Debunking The Myth of Judicial Neutrality
Misguided Notions Around “Impartiality” & “Objectivity”, Combined With A Lack of Critical Analysis, Has Meant Poor Judicial Decision Making For Too Long
If theres one thing I know all judges pride themselves on, it’s their purported ‘impartiality’ or ‘objectivity. These were the buzzwords of law school; the so-called bread and butter of what was going to make us great lawyers.
We never actually analysed what the words meant. There was no analysis of their applications to our intended roles. No direct sociological training for judges and lawyers. No personal psychological analysis of ones inherent prejudices and biases. Just the assumption that “objectivity” and “impartiality” are possible — but with no genuine analysis into the process through which these things are meant to occur.
At law school, there is just one short paper labelled “jurisprudence” — in essence, legal philosophy, where we explore the foundations of law — but that’s really about as “wishy washy” as any legal training gets.
Yet the legitimacy and validity of legal judgements is said to be dependent upon such important aspirations; the assumption within the hierarchical norms of our profession being that those at the top (i.e. judges) have an elevated sense of such things.
My personal submission is that judges have an inflated sense of their abilities, which is to the unfortunate detriment of their judgements and so-called “justice”.
Critically Analysing “Objectivity” & “Impartiality”
Yet, as I also reflected, I’d long questioned the validity of claims to such, when every judge I’d ever met, was so clearly and obviously prejudiced in some or other way.
My earliest professional memory of this, was where I began my practice: representing individuals from various protest groups (political, social justice, environmental or animal rights), who at the lower court level, would almost invariably be found guilty of…