Archive for ‘Women as Judges’

March 30, 2013

A Conversation with the Women Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court

by Angela N. Johnson

I recently stumbled across a video of an insightful discussion among all four women who have served/are serving on the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan reminisce about the time they first heard the news of Justice O’Connor’s appointment and they each share stories and thoughts about their careers. It is entertaining and well worth your time.

 

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The video can be viewed by clicking the photo above or this link: Conversation with Women U.S. Supreme Court Justices

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April 22, 2011

A Special Interview with Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg

by Angela N. Johnson

The 2010 Women’s Conference featured an interview with trailblazers Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Diane Sawyer asked the Justices a variety of questions and portions of the event were televised on ABC, which can be viewed as follows:

5-Minute Clip of Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg speaking about law school, as U.S. Supreme Court Justices, and Gendered-Judging.

11-Minute Clip of Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg, including a recorded message from Justices Sotomayor and Kagan.

These clips give wonderful insight into the view of the court from the lenses of these lady way-pavers. Law school, work experiences, and gendered judging are discussed as well as a special thank you from Justices Sotomayor and Kagan.

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April 15, 2011

Difference in Judicial Discourse; Value in Exploring Role of Law Clerks

by Angela N. Johnson

Maveety’s article reviews the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings and the infamous “wise Latina” exchanges that prompted concern over the possibility that judges render decisions based on their gender or world view (Maveety 2010, 453).  Moreover, this article examines differing sentiments on whether women judges view cases differently.  For example, Justice O’Connor has often said “a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases” Id. at 453.  The problem, as noted by Maveety, is that there is no universal definition of “wise” and that by nature, a judges’ decision-making will necessarily be influenced by past experiences.  When Justice Sotomayor later recounted her “wise Latina” statement, she explained that “by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society” Id. at 454. Justice O’Connor also changed her previous “same conclusion” statement by admitting it is “helpful to the Court to have nine members of different backgrounds and experiences and, yes, even gender.  We bring different life experiences to the task, and that’s a good thing” Id. at 455-456.  Moreover, upon her retirement, Justice O’Connor expressed disappointed that her replacement was not a female, which left Justice Ginsburg the lone woman on the bench.  While Maveety does not address the Justice O’Connor’s apparent change of heart, I have to wonder about the context of these statements.  Perhaps the previous statement made by Justice O’Connor was made during the years when it was best to defend women’s inclusion on the bench by refuting any differences in the token-number appointments.  If this is so, then it would follow that in more recent years Justice O’Connor can now embrace the benefits that women bring to the bench without facing ridicule or setting-back women’s progress.

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April 15, 2011

What do we know about the influence of gender on judging?

by Angela N. Johnson

Rhode weighs various conflicting evidence on whether gender influences judging and sums up the available literature in her article, In a “Different” Voice.  She finds after reviewing the current literature on the topic, that “gender matters in certain kinds of cases, in particular discrimination cases, which is one of the reasons why diversity should matter for selecting judges” (Rhode, In a “Different” Voice: What does the research about how gender influences judging actually say? 2009).

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April 7, 2011

Women Candidates in Judicial Elections

by Angela N. Johnson

In “Women Candidates and Judicial Elections: Telling an Untold Story,” Traciel Reid discusses the barriers women experience when campaigning in state court judicial elections.  “Currently, approximately one-half of all state judges reach their state court benches by winning partisan or nonpartisan races” (Reid 2010, 465).  This begs the question, “Do aspiring women judges experience similar barriers or challenges as women running for legislative or executive office?” Id. at 465.  Reid looks critically at past regression findings which suggested that women  face little or no discrimination and that gender has a minimal effect in the judicial election process. Reid argues that the regression model fails to reveal the realities confronting women judicial candidates because previous studies have noted gender as an independent variable wherein being a woman fails to correlate with the dependent variable, the finding appears that gender has little or no bearing.  Reid takes a different approach by running regression analysis on men and women candidates separately. Her results suggest that “different forces within the electoral environment affect the campaigns of men and women and, in particular, that women must overcome specific challenges” Id. at 467.  Moreover, men have advantages that women do not have, and women encounter difficulties that men do not face. One such example from Reid’s findings is that men’s “status as incumbents helps men in funding their campaigns, whereas women incumbents receive no similar benefit.  Incumbency correlates in a statistically significant way with men’s campaign contributions.  In contrast, it has no statistically significant effect on the contributions reported by women.  Also, campaign spending (beyond a certain level) has less impact on women’s vote shares than on men’s” Id. at 467.

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April 4, 2011

The Integration of Women into the American Judiciary

by Angela N. Johnson

Barbara Palmer provides a statistical overview of the integration of women into the American judiciary and a review of the literature in this area in “To Do Justly: The Integration of Women into the American Judiciary” (Palmer 2001, 235). Moreover, Palmer compiled data from 1971 to 1999 on five indicators in an effort to begin exploring the integration of women into several layers of the American judicial hierarchy. Palmer finds that one of the more prominent explanations for the slow integration of women into the judiciary is similar to other political institutions – the “pipeline” theory. Like many other elected positions, the informal requirements and typical career ladders for judgeshps are unavailable to women, leaving fewer women in the “eligibility pool” Id. at 235. According to Palmer, entry to the judicial hierarchy is more difficult than entry to the legislative hierarchy because while law school is one of many paths to legislative office, a law degree is a required prerequisite for judicial service. Moreover, despite the fact women’s proportionality in law schools is increasing, the proportion of women working as lawyers does not track with the number of women earning law degrees; this further shows that fewer women are among those eligible for judgeships. However, Palmer notes that while one part of the issue is eligibility, another issue stems from the lack of repeat “token” appointments. According to Palmer, one study found that “in states with all-male supreme courts, women had a strong chance of being selected to fill a vacancy, regardless of the selection method. Once a state had a woman on its Supreme Court, though, the chance that another woman would be selected substantially dropped, particularly in states that used an appointment method of selection” Id. at 238.

Palmer notes that the decision-making impact of women judges is clearest in sex discrimination cases and that “research on state supreme courts, the U.S. courts of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently shown that female judges tend to be the strongest supporters of women’s rights claims, regardless of their ideology” Id. at 237. Though evidence suggests that women do not bring an entirely different jurisprudence to the court, we know that it has been women attorneys and judges who have brought sex discrimination onto the legal and political agenda.

Source Citation: Palmer, Barbara. “To Do Justly: The Integration of Women into the American Judiciary.” Political Science and Politics 34, no. 2 (June 2001): 235-239.

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April 4, 2011

Judging Alone: Reflections on the Importance of Women on the Court

by Angela N. Johnson

Author Karen O’Connor acknowledges that there is no persuasive evidence[1] for a “womans judicial voice,” but that the representation of diverse women judges impacts public policy favorable to women and is important for socialization and collegiality (O’Connor 2010, 441). One such area that appears to be impacted by women’s presence on the bench is that of gender discrimination cases.  O’Connor reports that scholars believe gender discrimination cases are an exception because women have some shared life experiences that may inform their legal reasoning. This article also considers the experiences of Justice Ginsburg after Justice O’Connor’s departure. In writing this article, O’Connor considered gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court from 1981 to 2008 to suggest that gender discrimination cases “remain a powerful rallying point for women Judges” Id. at 442. Taking for example, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s impact on gender discrimination cases, beginning with her majority opinion in Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan (1982), which ruled certain types of single-sex admissions policies violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause – a “decision Justice O’Connor’s predeceasor, Justic Potter Stewart, would probably not have cast” Id. at 443. Even more compelling, is Justice O’Connor’s impact on her colleagues.  According to the author, in examining gender discrimination cases, after Justice O’Connor joined the Court, “Justice William H. Rehnquist increased his support for gender discrimination claimants from 25% to 50%.  Similarly noteworthy were O’Connor’s apparent effects on Chief Justice Warren E. Burger (32.1 to 50%), Justice John Paul Stevents (57.1% to 83.3%), and Justice Byron White (69.8% to 91.7%). 

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March 30, 2011

Critical Perspectives on Gender and Judging

by Angela N. Johnson

I couldn’t agree more with Kenney’s introduction to the section of “Critical Perspectives on Gender and Judging” in the 2010 (Volume 6) edition of Politics and Gender when she stated that there is an “absence of a gender analaysis of our third branch of government.  Despite the fact that most states elect their judges, most political scientists ignore judicial races, just as most feminist groups that seek to expand women’s political power (such as Emily’s List) do not endorse women for judicial races” (Kenney 2010).  In seeking research materials on this topic, I feel I can attest that Kenney’s assertions about the lack of attention paid to this topic are spot-on.  While there seems to be plenty of scholarship devoted to women’s candidacy for legislative races and efforts to increase the number of women in Congress, little is available on women as judicial candidates or the impact women have on the judiciary. This is surprising because other political scientists have shown that state judicial races share many of the common (downfalls) characteristics of other legislative races.

Within the small amount of scholarship devoted to female judges’ decision-making, results have been conflicted.  While some studies show that gender makes a difference in sex discrimination and divorce cases, other studies suggest gender has no effect Id. at 436.  Interestingly, “Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg reject the “different voice” argument but remain adamant that gender matters and we need more women on the bench” Id. at 437.

In declaring a need for continued (and increased) scholarship, Kenney writes, “Those of us who understand law, courts, judging, and judicial selection have a special obligation to speak to the issues of the day.  Who is sounding the alarm that only 22% of President George W. Bush’s appointments to the federal bench were women compared to 28% of President Bill Clinton’s?” Id at 438 citing Diascro, Segal, and Spill Solberg, 2009). “Who’s is protesting that Idaho and Indiana’s supreme courts no longer have even one woman justice?” Id. at 438.  Kenney argues that the groups of women lawyers, women judges, nor groups aiming to recruit women to public office are trumpeting the importance of increasing the number of women in the judiciary.  Additionally, more support must be given to women judges, who “suffer from a double standard of judicial behavior.  Women earn disapproval for behaviors (even if much less severe) that pass unnoticed in men” Id. at 439.  Kenney points to Justice Sotomayor’s critics charging her with being a “mean interrupting bully – yet analysis showed her to interrupt no more than her current colleagues, and though she asked sharp questions in oral arguments, her tone was much more respectful and less sarcastic than that of Justices John Roberts and Antonin Scalia” Id. at 439.

Source Citation: Kenney, Sally J. “Critical Perspectives on Gender and Judging.” Politics & Gender 6 (2010): 433-441.

 

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March 30, 2011

Women in the Federal Judiciary: Still a Long Way to Go

by Angela N. Johnson

According to the National Women’s Law Center, though the proportion of female law students is increasing, “the number of women in the federal judiciary has stagnated” (National Women’s Law Center 2011).  This is concerning because when women are “fairly represented on our federal courts, those courts are more reflective of the diverse population of this nation” Id. (Note, that this article is aimed at the federal court, but it is as equally important that women are represented in state courts, too!) Studies have shown that women judges “can bring an understandig of the imipact of the law on the lives of women and girls to the bench, and enrich courts’ understanding of how best to realize the intended purpose and effect of the law that he courts are charged with applying.  For example, one recent study demonstrtaed that male federal appellate court judges are less likely to rule against plaintiffs bringing claims of sex discrimination, if a female judge is on the bench” Id., citing Christina L. Boyd, Lee Epstein, and Andrew D. Martin’s Untangling the Causal Effect sof Sex on Judgeing, 54 AM. J. Pol. Sci. 389 (2010), available at http://epstein.law.northwestern.edu/research/genderjudging.pdf.  Also see Jennifer Peresie’s Female Judges Matter, which studies Title VII sex discrimination cases on three-judge appellate panels.

Current Statistics on the Federal Judiciary:

  1. Though the current makeup of the United States Supreme Court contains the highest proportion of women in history (3 of the 9 justices are women), only four of the 112 justices ever to serve on the highest court in the land have been women.
  2. Forty-nine of the 162 (30.2%) active judges currently sitting on the thirteen federal courts of appeal are female. But when broken down by circuit, a disparity becomes clear:
    1. The 8th Circuit has only one female judge among its eleven members, who is the only woman ever to have been appointed to that court.
    2. Women comprise just 10% of the judges serving on the 10th Circuit.
    3. Approximately 28% of the active United States district (or trial) court judges are women.
    4. The numbers are even smaller for women of color; there are 58 women of color serving as active federal judges across the country: 32 African American women, 20 Hispanic women, and six Asian-American women.  There are no Native American women among the over 750 active federal judges across the country.  There are just 9 women of color on the U.S. courts of Appeals – four of whom sit on the 9th Circuit, two on the DC Circuit, and one on each of the 1st, 4th, and 7th Circuits.  This means there are eight federal courts of appeals without a single active minority woman judge.
    5. Of President Obama’s 117 judicial nominees to date (including his nominees to the Supreme Court), 53 are women. 49% of his confirmed nominees have been women.

Source Citation: National Women’s Law Center. “Women in the Federal Judiciary: Still a Long Way to Go.” http://www.nwlc.org. March 8, 2011. http://www.nwlc.org/resource/women-federal-judiciary-still-long-way-go1 (accessed March 21, 2011).

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March 29, 2011

Research Reveals: The Process of Becoming a Judge is Different for Women

by Angela N. Johnson

Margaret Williams surveyed Texas judges and lawyers and found significant differences between men and women, both for those in the judiciary and those who could be members of the judiciary.  Moreover, informal requirements for attaining a seat on the bench could be a factor keeping qualified candidates from seeking a judgeship (M. S. Williams, In a Different Path: The Process of Becoming a Judge for Women and Men 2006, 104). Williams looks beyond the selection system to gain an understanding of how the process of becoming a judge is different within the groups running under that selection system, which provides a more individual-level explanation. Moreover, Williams argues that studies on selection “conclude that while the number of women in the eligible pool of judges and the size of court affect women’s representation, selection systems do not” Id. at 105-106 citing Elliot Slotnick Judicial Selection Systems and Nomination Outcomes: Does the Process Make a Difference? (1984).

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