Magistrates' Everyday Work and Emotional Labour

AuthorKathy Mack,Sharyn Roach Anleu
Date01 December 2005
Published date01 December 2005
ISSN: 0263-323X, pp. 590±614
Magistrates' Everyday Work and Emotional Labour
Sharyn Roach Anleu* and Kathy Mack**
The concept of emotional labour describ es the management of
emotions as part of everyday work performance. Much of the research
in this field has been in relation to jobs in the service sector where
(mostly female) employees are required to shape their own feelings in
order to make customers or clients feel at ease, comfortable or happy.
There has been relatively little attention paid to the importance of
emotional labour in professional occupations. This paper examines the
emotional labour of magistrates in court. Magistrates must often
regulate their own emotions and those of some court users, many of
whom are not legally represented and who express a variety of
emotions, including anger and distress, and experience social
problems that may elicit emotions or emotional responses from the
magistrate. The paper reports findings from interviews with over 40
magistrates throughout Australia and begins to address the
significance of emotional labour for this branch of the judiciary.
ßCardiff University Law School 2005, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road,
Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
*Sociology Department, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA
5001, Australia
** Law School, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA 5001,
This research was funded by a University-Industry Research Collaborative Grant in 2001
with Flinders University and the Association of Australian Magistrates (AAM) as the
partners and also received financial support from the Australian Institute of Judicial
Administration. It is currently funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Project
Grant (LP210306) with AAM and all Chief Magistrates and their courts as industry
partners with support from Flinders University as the host institution. Thanks to Ruth
Harris, Julie Henderson, Mary McKenna, Rose Polkinghorne, and Wendy Reimens for
research and administrative assistance. Earlier versions or portions of this paper were
presented at the Feminist Legal Workshop, Adelaide, 2003, the South Australian
Magistrates annual meeting, September 2003, The Australian Sociological Association
annual conference, Armidale, 2003 and the American Sociological Association annual
meeting, August 2004, San Francisco. We appreciate the very useful comments and
suggestions made by Meg Carter, Margaret Davies, Patricia Yancey Martin, and the
anonymous reviewers.
The courtroom is the location of many emotions, usually negative. In
criminal cases, defendants may be fearful or hostile, while victims are
distressed or angry. In civil matters, both plaintiffs and respondents may feel
frustrated and annoyed at having to go to court. In debt collection cases,
defendants may feel embarrassed about their inability to manage their
finances. In domestic violence cases, one party may be frightened, or both
parties may be openly hostile. Court users can feel intimidated, experiencing
both fear and uncertainty, which can affect emotional displays.
In the superior courts, legal representatives filter out or manage many of
these emotions. The judge hears technical legal arguments with much of the
raw human emotion and complexity excised. The judge interacts with the
legal counsel, not with the ordinary citizen; hears the matters translated from
everyday language into legal terminology; and responds to the legal
argument, not to a citizen's particular demands or desires.
In this sense, the
juridical field constituted by legal argument is relatively independent of
external forces, including the concerns and demands of lay participants
(including the legal representatives' clients), which is important to sustain
the law's impartiality and neutrality.
In contrast, in first instance courts, where parties are often unrepresented
by lawyers, the judicial officer must deal directly, and often quickly, with
diverse members of the public and their emotions, as well as the legal issues
they present. Daily, lower courts confront the human consequences of
broader changes in socio-economic conditions and government policies. The
criminal offending or debt, for example, is often only one component of a
much wider cycle of social and economic deprivation. These courts are not
just dealing with technical legal arguments but with many people who have
ended up in contact with the criminal justice system as a result ± perhaps not
directly ± of the failure of other (for example, welfare, education, employ-
ment, and mental health) systems.
The judicial officer must interact with
these citizens and their emotional states.
1 A.R. Hochschild, `Emotion Work, Feeling Rules and Social Structure' (1979) 85 Am.
J. of Sociology 551; A.R. Hochschild, The Managed Heart: Commercialization of
Human Feeling (1983); S. Karstedt, `Emotions and Criminal Justice' (2002) 6
Theoretical Crim. 299; A. Konradi, `Preparing to Testify: Rape Survivors Negotiating
the Criminal Justice Process' (1996) 10 Gender and Society 404; A. Konradi, ` ``I
Don't Have to Be Afraid of You'': Rape Survivors' Emotional Management in Court'
(1999) 22 Symbolic Interaction 45; J. Morison and P. Leith, The Barrister's World
and the nature of law (1992) ch. 6.
2 A. Abbott, `Status and Strain in the Professions' (1981) 86 Am. J. of Sociology 819,
3 P. Bourdieu, `The Force of Law: Toward a Sociology of the Juridical Field' (1987) 38
Hastings Law J. 814.
4 M. Peel, The Lowest Rung: Voices of Australian Poverty (2003).
ßCardiff University Law School 2005

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