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Sitting in Judgment: The Working Lives of Judges [Hardcover]

Penny Darbyshire
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

30 Sep 2011
The public image of judges has been stuck in a time warp; they are invariably depicted in the media - and derided in public bars up and down the country - as 'privately educated Oxbridge types', usually 'out-of-touch', and more often than not as 'old men'. These and other stereotypes - the judge as a pervert, the judge as a right-wing monster - have dogged the judiciary long since any of them ceased to have any basis in fact. Indeed the limited research that was permitted in the 1960s and 1970s tended to reinforce several of these stereotypes. Moreover, occasional high profile incidents in the courts, elaborated with the help of satirists such as 'Private Eye' and 'Monty Python', have ensured that the 'old white Tory judge' caricature not only survives but has come to be viewed as incontestable. Since the late 1980s the judiciary has changed, largely as a result of the introduction of training and new and more transparent methods of recruitment and appointment. But how much has it changed, and what are the courts like after decades of judicial reform? Given unprecedented access to the whole range of courts - from magistrates' courts to the Supreme Court - Penny Darbyshire spent seven years researching the judges, accompanying them in their daily work, listening to their conversations, observing their handling of cases and the people who come before them, and asking them frank and searching questions about their lives, careers and ambitions. What emerges is without doubt the most revealing and compelling picture of the modern judiciary in England and Wales ever seen. From it we learn that not only do the old stereotypes not hold, but that modern 'baby boomer' judges are more representative of the people they serve and that the reforms are working. But this new book also gives an unvarnished glimpse of the modern courtroom which shows a legal system under stress, lacking resources but facing an ever-increasing caseload. This book will be essential reading for anyone wishing to know about the experience of modern judging, the education, training and professional lives of judges, and the current state of the courts and judiciary in England and Wales.

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Sitting in Judgment: The Working Lives of Judges + The Business of Judging: Selected Essays and Speeches: 1985-1999 + The Rule of Law
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 478 pages
  • Publisher: Hart Publishing (30 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849462399
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849462396
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 438,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Sitting in Judgment: The Working Lives of Judges by Penny Darbyshire, is a weighty work. She has spent seven years researching the judiciary and sitting alongside them. The result is a rare exposé of what judges do, think and how they and the system have changed.…Darbyshire's painstaking work contains some gems and sheds some light on a world that remains remote to most. --Frances Gibb, The Times

About the Author

Penny Darbyshire has a first degree in law, a master's degree in criminology and a Ph D in socio-legal studies. She has been a lecturer, senior lecturer and reader at Kingston University since 1978. She is also an adjunct associate professor, University of Notre Dame, London Law Centre, and was a visiting lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley, from 1992 until 1993. She was a visiting fellow at Wolfson College, Cambridge in 2005.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sitting in Judgment on the Judges? 8 Feb 2012
By Phillip Taylor TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Length: 4:12 Mins
READ THIS BOOK

An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

For those of us in the law, whether barristers or solicitors, this very readable book has that amazing "un-put-downable" quality which we are sure will lead to an impressive level of interest, not just amongst us legal beagles, but with the general public and certainly with academics.

New from Hart Publishing, the book is the result of a lengthy and undoubtedly extremely thorough research project undertaken over a period of seven to eight years by author Penny Darbyshire.

`I wanted to find out what judges did in and out of court and what they were really like,' says Darbyshire in the introduction. In her conduct of the project, which for the most part, has consisted of observations and interviews, she noted generally, a disparity between the public perception of judges and the reality.

Unlike the commonly held stereotypes of `eccentric buffers, out of touch with the real world, etc.' the senior judges she met seemed, in her words `unpretentious, quick-witted, perceptive and encouragingly kind to (her) students.'

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the project certainly meets the need for a thorough, systematic and it is hoped, objective study of the judiciary and judicial behaviour through the analytical eye of a sociologist. Or is she an anthropologist?

As one judge apparently commented to another, `She's writing a little anthropology - a study of judges in their habitat.' To complete her study, she `shadowed' every type of judge in different aspects of their work throughout the six court circuits of England and Wales. She duly shadowed a total of some seventy-seven judges and met hundreds of others.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Sitting in Judgment on the Judges? 8 Feb 2012
By Phillip Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
READ THIS BOOK

An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

For those of us in the law, whether barristers or solicitors, this very readable book has that amazing "un-put-downable" quality which we are sure will lead to an impressive level of interest, not just amongst us legal beagles, but with the general public and certainly with academics.

New from Hart Publishing, the book is the result of a lengthy and undoubtedly extremely thorough research project undertaken over a period of seven to eight years by author Penny Darbyshire.

`I wanted to find out what judges did in and out of court and what they were really like,' says Darbyshire in the introduction. In her conduct of the project, which for the most part, has consisted of observations and interviews, she noted generally, a disparity between the public perception of judges and the reality.

Unlike the commonly held stereotypes of `eccentric buffers, out of touch with the real world, etc.' the senior judges she met seemed, in her words `unpretentious, quick-witted, perceptive and encouragingly kind to (her) students.'

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the project certainly meets the need for a thorough, systematic and it is hoped, objective study of the judiciary and judicial behaviour through the analytical eye of a sociologist. Or is she an anthropologist?

As one judge apparently commented to another, `She's writing a little anthropology - a study of judges in their habitat.' To complete her study, she `shadowed' every type of judge in different aspects of their work throughout the six court circuits of England and Wales. She duly shadowed a total of some seventy-seven judges and met hundreds of others.

Writing in the Foreword, Lord Judge, the current Lord Chief Justice has pointed out that `until recently research of this kind would not and did not happen.' The preconditions on both sides demanded that such research be undertaken with an open mind and without preconceptions. This being the case, there would be no editorial control on the part of the judges.

Alas, however, compete 100% objectivity is an unachievable goal, even in this review we are writing. For example, in the interesting chapter on `Where do English and Welsh Judges Come From?' Darbyshire refers to the `hierarchical' mind-set and `arrogance' of some barristers who (in our view rightly) regard themselves as the senior profession and who (wrongly) look down their noses at solicitors. `...solicitor advocates were not permitted to wear wigs in court until recently,' she says.

We confess to being a little confused as to what is meant by `recently' as we assume from the footnote, that her conclusions are based on an article in the `Times' (1989), the `New Law Journal' (1995) and ` a book called The Bar on Trial' published 1978. We won't go into how much the Bar has changed since 1978, but we will point out that barristers no longer wear wigs and gowns much in court either these days, since about the turn of this centry-ish!

All this is but a minor cavil, however, on a formidable, utterly fascinating and certainly well written piece of research. If you wish to read a well-rounded and insightful commentary on the experience of modern judging, this book is to be highly recommended.
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