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How research on diversity (specifically sexual orientation) within various institutions of justice has influenced policy development and reform initiatives

Professor Moran’s research on perceptions, expectations and experiences of sexual orientation discrimination and how they affect the lives of those who work in the justice and legal services sector has had a two-fold impact.

His research has informed policy development, reform initiatives and operational practice within the Judicial Appointments Committee. And he has raised the profile of sexual orientation which previously had not featured on the diversity agenda in the legal professional and justice sector.

Raising awareness of sexual orientation as a diversity characteristic has led to campaigns and training initiatives to support career development for LGBT legal professionals.

Moran's research and key findings

  • 70% of LGBT lawyers felt there was prejudice within the judicial selection process,
  • with a similar proportion stating that more openly gay LGBT judges would encourage them to apply for a judicial role.

Moran made recommendations concerning the judicial appointments process; and about awareness-raising and stimulating cultural change within judicial institutions. In 2011-2012 Moran undertook a major survey of career progression within the legal sector, examining the effects of gender, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation on career progression, salaries and working patterns.

He found a significant lack of progress towards inclusiveness and called for the sector to:

  • set targets for the inclusion of women, ethnic minorities, LGBT and disabled lawyers and business services professionals; and
  • deliver fair career progression for all. He made recommendations to firms on how they should deliver their inclusiveness initiatives, and monitor progress.

Significance of research

The significance of Moran’s work is that it has contributed to promoting attitude change in relation to sexual diversity in the legal profession. Attitudes to diversity, and diversity itself had both suffered enduring effects from the criminalisation (until 1967) of consensual same sex relations. Until 1991 it was the Lord Chancellor’s policy to appoint only married people to the judiciary, to avoid potential scandal arising from the appointment of homosexuals. Consequently, the private lives of barristers eligible for judicial appointment used to be vigorously vetted; and (as shown by the results of a 2009 Law Society survey of LGB solicitors) such practices and attitudes are still remembered by those who have been in the legal profession for 30-40 years. Moran has both promoted the need to incorporate sexual diversity in all aspects of the legal profession, and stimulated changes in practices of monitoring and publishing data on diversity.

Specifically, Moran’s research has had impact on

  • the Judicial Appointments Committee (JAC)
  • he Lords Select Committee on Judicial Appointments Process
  • stimulated debate on judicial image-making, specifically, YouTube videos of judges delivering summaries of their judgments
  • the judiciary, through his membership of the Equal Justices Initiative
  • the Law Society, through support and advice for its 2009 survey of LGB solictitors, leading to development of the Law Society’s ‘Careers Barriers Action plan’ and the collection and publication of data on the sexual diversity of the legal profession; and contributed to Law Society’s policy on widening diversity, with consequent impacts on the support it offers to both member firms and individual members.

Moran gave the 9th Stonewall Lecture in June 2010 to over 120 delegates and to the Law Society’s Equality and Diversity Committee. He was invited to join the Law Society’s strategic LGB steering group as a member (2007-2013), during which time he played a key role in recommending initiatives to support the Law Society’s delivery of its Equality and Diversity vision and strategy.

Background research

  • In 2009 he researched portrayals of the judiciary through a textual analysis of official judicial portraits of the Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, concluding that these portraits represent both the individual but also celebrate the qualities of the relevant state institution to itself and the public.
  • In 2011, Moran pursued further the apparent absence in judicial settings of references to the sexuality of members of the judiciary, examining records of swearing-in ceremonies of judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and finding that sexuality was referenced in every text but that the sexuality of lesbian and gay judicial appointees was coded.
  • Moran developed related research (2009-2010) into barriers to judicial careers by legal practitioners who identified themselves as LGBT, a population not previously studied by judicial appointment researchers or policy makers. This study exposed previously unidentified perceptions and expectations of prejudice.