In her early work, the feminist legal scholar Erika Rackley uses the image of Ronald Dworkin's superjudge Hercules to shed light on the experience of the woman judge and on law and adjudication in the liberal legal order. She sees Hercules as representing the judge ‘who inhabits our legal imagination’, and as conjuring up problematic notions of unimpeachable wisdom, detached neutrality and super-humanism. This paper assesses Rackley's argument in light of the feminist judgments scholarship that has emerged in the meantime. It contests Rackley's claim that Hercules, or what he represents, is a patriarchal influence in the real world of law, and argues that he might instead be understood to accommodate, or even to encourage, principled evolutions in law along the lines of those suggested by the feminist judgments literature. This assessment is done mainly through the lens of Stokes v CBS Clonmel, a judgment of the Irish Supreme Court concerning indirect discrimination that was later the subject of a feminist judgment in the Northern/Irish Feminst Judgments volume. The broader aim of this assessment is to interrogate the insights and implications of feminist judgments scholarship.
The paper is in four parts. Part 1 places feminist approaches to adjudication in broader theoretical context. Part 2 considers Dworkin's theory of adjudication and Rackley's critique. Part 3 sets out the approach taken by both the real-world and feminist judges in the Stokes case. Part 4 critiques Rackley's take on Hercules in light of the approach adopted in those judgments and draws on preceding analysis to interrogate the insights and implications of feminist judgments scholarship.