Abstract: One of the enduring problems identifi ed by feminist legal scholars is the diffi culty of implementing feminist legislative reforms in practice. In part, this occurs because myths and stereotypes about issues such as ‘“real rape’” and domestic violence continue to be refl ected and sustained by some barristers and judges in trials and other court procedures. In this context, Christine Boyle speculated, over twenty years ago, on what difference a feminist judge might be able to make in a sexual assault case. Boyle’s question has been taken up and extended to other areas of law in feminist scholarship and feminist judgments projects in recent years. Interviews conducted as part of the Australian Feminist Judgments Project provide an opportunity to further explore the question of what difference a feminist judge might be able to make in a criminal case. Forty-one judges agreed to be interviewed on the basis of their identifi cation as feminists. Many discussed the challenges they face in cases involving issues such as sexual assault and domestic violence and how they have responded to these challenges. This article considers how they perceive that their feminist worldview infl uences their approach to decision-making. Drawing on the interviewees’ comments, the article identifi es feminist approaches to understanding key legal concepts, managing the courtroom, controlling the admissibility of evidence and crossexamination, and approaches to language.
Keywords: Australian Feminist Judgments Project; domestic abuse; feminist perspectives; sexual violence; feminist judge
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