Ms Kcasey McLoughlin
Newcastle Law School
- Phone:(02) 4921 5510
Balancing the scales
Kcasey McLoughlin is an early career researcher and social commentator who probes the notion of gendered difference in Australian law.
TRANSFORMATION OR APPROBATION
Kcasey McLoughlin is currently crafting her PhD thesis, critically interrogating the impact of gender within the High Court of Australia.
The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy, with seven judges presiding over the court at any one time.
Kcasey's thesis was originally inspired by a period between 2009 and early 2015, when three of the seven judges were women.
This gender proportion was in stark contrast to previous incarnations that were heavily gendered or completely exclusive of women.
Kcasey's thesis will examine the influence of gender, and gender politics, on the High Court processes, from appointment through to the retirement of judges.
Additionally, Kcasey's thesis will ask whether women judges effectuate a gendered perspective informed by life experience, or innate difference in legal reasoning.
By exploring the judgments of this period, Kcasey is also assessing whether the important radical transformations as envisaged by 20th century feminist theorists agitating for gender balance in judiciary bodies has occurred, or is even possible, within the High Court of Australia.
Firstly, the appointment process of high court judges, and the inevitable discourses around those appointments are examined in Kcasey's work.
Conversations regarding the meritorious virtues of newly appointed male judges are rarely undertaken.
In contrast, the appointment of female judges incites much discussion about merit, and assurances that affirmative action has not been invoked. Kcasey recently published an article in the Alternative Law Journal about the politics of merit and diversity in High Court appointments.
Speeches given by newly appointed judges at their swearing in ceremony also reflect a gender disparity.
Kcasey points out that new male judges are more than willing to emphasise aspects of their lives that don't fit within a dominant narrative. One male judge even affirmed the importance of women judges in his speech.
Comparatively, the women judges disregarded the challenges they have faced as being irrelevant and downplayed their difference, choosing to avoid a possible label of advocate.
A study of women judges' maiden or first judgments to be published in the forthcoming issue of the international journal Feminist Legal Studies in 2015, gives insight into prevailing models of collegiality on the court.
"It's quite fascinating. They actually have this wonderful moment of judicial authority when they start out, but subsequently their contributions have very much been based on consensus," Kcasey explains.
The retirement speeches made by retiring female High Court judges are also examined in Kcasey's thesis.
Justice Susan Crennan retired in early 2015. Her final speech celebrated the consensus and collegiality of the bench.
Justice Crennan's subsequent replacement by Justice Geoffrey Nettle sparked discourse around gender equity. Debate around gender quotas, an equity measure Australia seemed unwilling to institute, also followed.
Kcasey concedes that the women appointed to the High Court are delegated power within a masculinist structure and are therefore somewhat limited in their capacity to affect change.
But she does admit to being fascinated by just how much these female judges have participated in forming part of the consensus.
THE PATH TO PROMINENCE
It was Kcasey's dislike of consensus that originally started her on this career path.
"I've wanted to be a lawyer since I was about seven. My parent's told me I was very good at arguing, although it turns out that is not always the most appropriate skill set for this profession," she laughs.
In high school, Kcasey was awarded the Sir Adrian Solomons Memorial Law Bursary, and undertook work experience in a legal firm, confirming her choice of career.
Upon graduating with Honours, Kcasey applied for a PhD scholarship. This allowed her to volunteer at a community legal centre and tutor across many subjects, before gaining a full time teaching position at the UON in 2012.
"I love teaching. There is a lot I like about being an academic. There is autonomy, and space to write about things that you care about," she says.
By extension, Kcasey's work is also concerned with the impact of law on the lives of Australian women. She has already made several thought provoking contributions to national discourse around feminism, law and politics.
Kcasey wrote a pointed piece for The Conversation regarding the framing of the appointment of Justice Michelle Gordon to the High Court in 2015.
In it, she argues that the reinstatement of the almost equal gender balance in the High Court was merely serendipitous for a government looking for an appointee who would maintain the philosophical status quo of the existing bench.
Kcasey has also written about the implications of Zoe's Law on the legal status of abortion in this state.
"The narrative around Zoe's Law has become very problematic," she says.
"The unfortunate side effect of the unimaginable grief of an individual is a debate which has the potential to impact on the autonomy all women have over their own bodies."
She has also authored articles exploring the ethical and legal quandries that are inherent within the ever-evolving manifestations of the Abbott government's paid-parental leave scheme plans.
Kcasey is aware that her choices around topics may affect her future career prospects, but feels ethically compelled to join in on these debates.
"I had a vision of myself having courtroom dramas and that is still an option. For now, contributing to important conversations that we need to have as a nation, is important to me."
She smiles, "Even if they may not help my employability status."
Investigating instances of inequity and agitating for change is a life's work for Kcasey. The High Court is only her first target, and demanding diversity of representation, only a first step.
"There is all kinds of scope to look at diversity. People say 'So what are you going to do, have a seat for this person and one for that person?'"
"But that's a really simplistic binary. What we should be doing is having conversations about diversity and its benefits. Diversity enhances our public institutions rather than undermines them."
Kcasey notes that even without radical advocates or codified changes in processes, the evolution of society will be slowly but inevitably mirrored in changes to the High Court.
She notes that the male judges appointed in the future will be brought up in a different time to their previous counterparts, and can be feminists.
Despite the idealistic vision of the feminist theorists of the past, even equal representation in power may not create fast or noticeable change, as Kcasey's study of the period of almost equal gender balance in the High Court proves.
"Inherently we have a pretty conservative bench, it's certainly not been a tale of how three women got on the bench and destroyed the joint. That's not been the case at all."
Let's just see what happens once Kcasey gets there.
Kcasey McLoughlin is admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW and is currently an Associate Lecturer in Law at the Newcastle Law School. Kcasey's doctoral research explores the interaction between women, gender and difference in the judiciary. This research is specifically concerned with the way in which gender and difference have impacted upon the contributions of women judges to the High Court of Australia. Although her research explores the contributions of women jurists, she is also interested in the way in which law affects women's lives and experiences. Kcasey's interest in feminist legal theory and feminist political theory means that she is eager press the boundaries between the disciplines of law and political science in ways that are meaningful to both disciplines.Research Expertise
Feminist jurisprudence; Feminist legal theory; Women, gender and judging; Australian Federal Constitutional Law My doctoral research explores the separate but interconnected issues relating not only to the process of appointment of High Court judges, but also, what actually happens when women get to the business of judging. This research explores the political process of appointment with a particular focus on the gendered rhetoric of merit and its deployment with regard to women judges. It also examines both how and why we might examine whether there is any discernible difference in women’s approach to legal reasoning and decision-making. I have supervised four students in the completion of their Honours dissertations in Law: • 2012: Jurisdiction Facts and Judicial Fictions: Reviewing the Errors of Jurisdiction through the Lens of Public Service Association of South Australia Inc v Industrial Relations Commission of South Australia  HCA 25. • 2013: Back to the Future: the Implied Freedom of Political Communication and a Return to European Proportionality in Monis v The Queen (2013) 295 ALR 259. • 2013:‘“Let Them be Lions” – An Analysis of Assistant Commissioner Michael Condon v Pompano Pty Ltd  HCA 7 • 2013: In a State of Flux: The Implied Freedom of Political Communication in Australia Following Monis v The Queen; Droudis v The Queen (2013) 295 ALR 259.
Professional Conduct Equity and Trusts Legal System and Method
- Bachelor of Law/Diploma of Legal Practice(Honours), University of Newcastle
- Bachelor of Arts, University of Newcastle
- Bachelor of Arts (Honours), University of Newcastle
- Feminist jurisprudence
- Feminist legal and political theory
- Gender and judging
- Legal System and Method
- Mooting (Advocacy)
- Professional Conduct
- English (Fluent)
Fields of Research
|160299||Criminology not elsewhere classified||50|
|160399||Demography not elsewhere classified||50|
|Title||Organisation / Department|
|Lecturer||University of Newcastle
Newcastle Law School
Faculty of Business and Law Research Higher Degree Best Publication Award
For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.
Journal article (3 outputs)
McLoughlin KJ, 'Australian Feminist Judgments: Righting and Rewriting Law (Book Review)', Alternative Law Journal, 40 144-144 (2015) [C3]
McLoughlin KJ, 'The Politics of Gender Diversity on the High Court of Australia', Alternative Law Journal, 40 166-170 (2015)
Jose JW, Convery A, McLoughlin K-RJ, Owen SM, 'Reproducing political subjects: Feminist scholarship and the political science curriculum', Australian Journal of Political Science, 46 535-549 (2011) [C1]
Conference (8 outputs)
McLoughlin KJ, 'Still Debating Difference?: Feminist Legal Theory and Judicial Diversity', Australian National University, Canberra, ACT Australia (2015)
McLoughlin KJ, McDonald B, 'Accepted Wisdom About the Politics of Abortion and Miscalculating the Strength of Civil Rights', University of Canberra, Canberra (2015)
McLoughlin KJ, 'What a Difference Difference Makes in Judging the Judges: Gender, Justice and Judicial Power on the Australian High CourtÂ¿', Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand Conference, Public and/or Private Lives, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia (2014) [E3]
McLoughlin K-RJ, Lindsay KA, 'What's hate got to do with it?: Legal and political constructions of race, indigeneity and free speech in the light of Eatock v Bolt  FCA 1103', Australian Political Studies Association Annual Conference, Hobart, Tasmania (2012) [E3]
Jose JW, Convery A, McLoughlin K-RJ, Owen SM, 'Hidden in plain sight: Feminist political theory and political theory', Australian Political Studies Association Annual Conference 2010. Full Papers, Melbourne, Vic (2010) [E1]
Jose JW, McLoughlin K-RJ, 'In harm's way: JS Mill's feminist opposition to the contagious diseases acts', Australian Political Studies Association Annual Conference 2009: Refereed Papers, Sydney, NSW (2009) [E1]
|Show 5 more conferences|
Other (5 outputs)
McLoughlin KJ, 'Mother of all backflips on parental leave', . Newcastle: Herald (2015)
McLoughlin KJ, 'Two-for-one: a good new High Court judge, and a woman to boot', . Australia: The Conversation (2015)
McLoughlin KJ, 'Court appointment of woman judge sound', . Newcastle: Herald (2015)
McLoughlin KJ, 'Sworn To Be: Gender and Difference in Australian High Court Judicial Swearing- in Speeches', ( pp.1). Sydney, Australia: Australian Political Studies Association (2014) [O1]
|Show 2 more others|
May 14, 2015
Kcasey McLoughlin discusses the government's policy shift on parental leave
April 17, 2015
Kcasey McLoughlin discusses the appointment of a new judge to the High Court of Australia
November 18, 2014
Kcasey McLoughlin discusses Zoe's Law and its possible implications for women's rights