Does the gender of a judge matter?

by on June 4, 2009 at 8:33 am in Law | Permalink

From the work of Christina Boyd, Lee Epstein, and Andrew D. Martin, Boyd and Epstein report:

In research
that we conducted with our colleague Andrew D. Martin, we studied the
votes of federal court of appeals judges in many areas of the law, from
environmental cases to capital punishment and sex discrimination. For
the most part, we found no difference in the voting patterns of male
and female judges, except when it comes to sex discrimination cases.
There, we found that female judges are approximately 10 percent more
likely to rule in favor of the party bringing the discrimination claim.
We also found that the presence of a female judge causes male judges to
vote differently. When male and female judges serve together to decide
a sex discrimination case, the male judges are nearly 15 percent more
likely to rule in favor of the party alleging discrimination than when
they sit with male judges only.

This holds true even after we account for judges' ideological leanings.

The research paper is here.

John June 4, 2009 at 11:52 am

Classic social psych.

Phil June 4, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Actually the question is does the SEX of the judge matter. Sex refers to the physical attributes that
distingish men from women, gender is liguistic construction. Of course trillions of
annoying government documents have asked “gender”, not sex, so I’m not suprised people routinely
screw this up.

As for Emily’s post – I think it indicates the judiciary is heavily populated by feminized males.

Vive La Difference!

jsalvati June 4, 2009 at 1:40 pm

I am pleased that the effect is pretty small and confined to sex discrimination cases.

Confused 3L June 5, 2009 at 9:22 am

Everyone keeps referring to different outcomes, but to me it makes more sense that the reason for the differing results is that men and women are likely to view the underlying facts differently. It is simply difficult for an individual who has never experienced discrimination to understand it, and, among the generation of women that are likely to sit on an appellate bench, female judges have unfortunately been confronted with various types of discrimination.

The way that male judges change there votes when a women is on the panel with them indicates, at least to me, that by having a female voice express their experiences male judges are more prone to see gender discrimination.

The data I would love to see, is if the decision pattern changes for male judges who have previously been enpaneled with female judges on gender discrimination cases. This could indicate wether the change is due to perceived social pressures or if it arises from a change in perception from discussing the issue with a female peer.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: