Understanding Judges

The details
Law (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 03 October 2019
Saturday 14 December 2019
05 August 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

Drawing on comparative material from a range of different countries, the module examines the operation of courts, and work of judges, from first instance through to final courts of appeal.
The module is strongly interdisciplinary in approach. In addition to perspectives from comparative legal analysis the module also draws on insights into the structure and operation of the judicial branch from political science, management studies, media studies, and psychoanalytical studies.
Two classes will involve a visit to the UK Supreme Court, and an in class interview with a judge.
The module will require you to think beyond skills and knowledge you have learnt as a law student. It encourages and rewards creativity.

Module aims

To develop a multi-faceted understanding of judicial officers and the judicial branch.

To understand the context within which judges operate, the constraints they work under, and how and why they decide controversies.

To understand how the branches of the state interact, incl the role of judges beyond the court room.

To think widely and comparatively about the judicial function

Module learning outcomes

An ability to understand judicial behaviour from perspectives other than law.

An ability to understand how judges reach the decisions they do.

An ability to assess the role of judges within the UK's constitutional arrangements.

An ability to use disciplines beyond that of law to analyse judicial behaviour.

An ability to use non UK jurisdictions to compare with the UK.

Module information


Topics covered may include (this varies to suit the interests of the cohort, and the module leader's current research):

What are judges for? A focus on the law making role of judges and a relationship recognition case study

Psychoanalytical and psychosocial perspectives on judges and courts

Constitutional essentials underpinning judicial power

Top courts Structure and operation or supreme and constitutional courts

Who are the judges? Considerations of diversity, or lack of it, in the judicial branch

How should judges be appointed?

The judicial process The judicial pysche. and how judges decide cases

Bias: When should you challenge a judge for bias?

Leadership and judicial branch management

Court communications How do the courts communicate their work, and the role of the media

Supreme Court visit and discussion of court architecture

An in-class interview with a judge

Learning and teaching methods

There are 20 contact hours for seminars which may be delivered in sessions of between 2 and 4 hours each (with breaks in the sessions).
A reading week or weeks may be scheduled.
One week will involve a court visit the UK Supreme Court. One will be an in class interview with a local judge.
In addition there are a round of between 3 and 4 tutorials in which you will discuss aspects of the module in more detail. All teaching sessions are strongly discussion based.


  • Dailey, Anne C. (2017) Law and the unconscious: a psychoanalytic perspective, New Haven: Yale University Press.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework Summative Essay 16/01/2020

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Richard Cornes
Law Office, telephone: 01206 872529 email: lawugadmin@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Prof Leslie James Moran
Birkbeck College
Professor of Law
Dr Brian Barry
Dublin Institute of Technology
Lecturer in Law
Available via Moodle
Of 28 hours, 17 (60.7%) hours available to students:
11 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Law (School of)

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