Courting Faith: An empirical study of lawyers’ perceptions of the relationship between religion and judicial decision-making

Springall-Rogers, Amanda (2016) Courting Faith: An empirical study of lawyers’ perceptions of the relationship between religion and judicial decision-making. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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The traditional view of judicial behaviour posits that only the evidence and the law form the basis of a judicial decision. However, research shows that judging is influenced by a variety of legal and non-legal factors, particularly in cases involving judicial discretion. Whilst there is a wealth of empirical research that explores the interplay between religion and judging in other jurisdictions, particularly in the US where judges’ faith has been found to affect judicial decisions in certain legal areas, much less scholarly attention has been paid to this relationship in the context of the British courts. This socio-legal study uses semi-structured interviews with barristers and an online questionnaire completed by solicitors, both predominantly practising in employment or family law, to explore whether the religious beliefs of judges are perceived by lawyers to influence individual judicial decision-making in the English courts and, if so, how.
The study finds that judges’ faith is perceived to potentially influence the decisional process in cases which, directly or indirectly, involve religious issues. However, the effect of such influence is considered to be marginal, being generally confined to that which is unconsciously manifested and not determinative of case outcomes. Constraints on judging are thought to be central in ensuring that judicial decision-making remains within the limits of the law. Whilst lawyers are largely confident that the influence of religious beliefs is not a cause of concern in judicial decision-making in the English courts, the evolving religious and legal landscapes in Britain means that there is no room for complacency. Judicial training, both in relation to understanding religiously sensitive issues and the role played by unconscious biases, is vital to ensure that judgments are reached on the basis of sound legal reasoning and not on the basis of judges’ personal proclivities.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Law
Depositing User: Bruce Beckett
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2018 09:08
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2018 09:08


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