Judicial Pictures as Legal Life‐writing Data and a Research Method

AuthorLeslie J. Moran
Date01 March 2015
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6478.2015.00699.x
Publication Date01 March 2015
JOURNAL OF LAW AND SOCIETY
VOLUME 42, NUMBER 1, MARCH 2015
ISSN: 0263-323X, pp. 74±101
Judicial Pictures as Legal Life-writing Data and a
Research Method
Leslie J. Moran*
This article examines the use of pictures as a source of data and tools
for researching the lives of the judiciary, both the life of the judiciary
as an institution as well as the life of individual judges. The point of
departure is that image making and image management is of particular
importance for the judiciary ± an elite in positions of power. The
images produced can tell us much about how those who occupy
judicial positions shape and represent the nature of the judicial
institution and their position within it to themselves, fellow judges, and
outsiders. The focus here is judicial visual images, a neglected, some-
times poorly understood and underused source of data. The article
explores how `found' and `researcher-made' pictures can be used to
write the life of the judiciary. It considers the challenges that need to
be acknowledged and addressed when using visual data.
The objective of this article is to examine the use of pictures as a source of
data and a tool for undertaking research into the lives of the judiciary. I use
the phrase `lives of the judiciary' to refer to both the life of the judiciary as
an institution as well as the life of individual judges. The point of departure
is the insights offered by scholarship that focuses on elites in society who
occupy positions of authority. Image making and image management is of
particular importance for those in positions of power. This image work has
two aspects. One is a concern with the outward, public face, of legitimate
authority. The other is self-regarding, for the audience of peers: legitimating
their position and the power they possess to themselves and their immediate
circle.
1
Barker calls this `endogenous legitimation', of the self-justification
74
*School of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street,
London WC1E 7HX, England
l.moran@bbk.ac.uk
1 R. Barker, Legitimating Identities: The Self-Presentations of Rulers and Subjects
(2001) 31.
ß2015 The Author. Journal of Law and Society ß2015 Cardiff University Law School
of rulers by the formation and display of their identity as rulers.
2
The
judiciary, Baum argues, are one group of elites preoccupied with image
making and image management.
3
Judicial image work uses a range of media,
takes a variety of forms, and engages a variety of audiences.
4
The images
produced can tell us much about how those who occupy judicial positions
shape and represent the nature of the judicial institution and their position
within it to themselves, their fellow judges, and to outsiders.
The central argument of this article is that those who engage in writing the
lives of the judiciary not only need to pay more critical attention to the image
preoccupations of the judiciary but also have regard to the rich diversity of
images made and their various uses. The focus here is on judicial visual
images. It is not proposed that pictures should supersede other sources of
data but, rather, that pictures are a neglected, sometimes poorly understood
and underused source of data. They offer much potential for those under-
taking research into the lives of the judiciary. This article explores how
visual images might be used to research and write the life of the judiciary as
an institution. The images considered here fall into two broad categories:
`found pictures', being pictures produced by others, and researcher generated
pictures or `made pictures'. In examining the potential of the two types, the
article also explores the many challenges facing a researcher engaging with
visual images. Consideration will be given to the many assumptions and
expectations about the nature of the visual objects that need to be addressed
when working with pictures. What significance needs to be given to the
materiality of these visual objects? How important is an awareness of the
rich cultural traditions they draw upon in order for a researcher to make
sense of pictures as sources of data and as devices for generating data?
Throughout, the article draws on my experiences of working with pictures
to undertake research on the judiciary.
5
I have used a variety of `found
pictures' as data, including painted and photographic portraits, sketches,
sculpture (in particular, funerary monuments), film, and television.
6
They
75
2 id., p. 3.
3 L. Baum, Judges and Their Audiences: A Perspective on Judicial Behavior (2006).
4 For an introductory survey of the variety of forms and relevant judicial and scholarly
literatures, see L.J. Moran, `Some reflections on the aesthetics of contemporary
judicial ceremony: making the ordinary extraordinary' in The Political Aesthetics of
Power and Protest, ed. A. Virmani (2015).
5 I leave to others the task of working on visual images of other branches of the legal
profession. For an example of a photographic project that covers the whole range of
legal professions in England and Wales. see J.F. Hunkin, Faces of the Law (2008).
Legal academics are notable by their absence from this project. In 1989 the United
States National Portrait Gallery staged the exhibition, `Portrait of the American Law'.
The exhibition crossed a wide spectrum of legal professionals including academics:
see F.S. Voss, Portraits of the American Law (1989).
6 Work exploring film and television representations will not be referred to here. See
L.J. Moran, B. Skeggs, and R. Herz, `Ruth Herz Judge playing Judge Ruth Herz:
reflections on the performance of judicial authority' (2010) 14 Law, Text, Culture
ß2015 The Author. Journal of Law and Society ß2015 Cardiff University Law School

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