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Judging While Female

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I was lucky enough to chair a panel at WPSA where Rebecca Gill presented the latest iteration of her research into how the judicial merit evaluations done under ABA guidelines actually work in practice, and the results are as depressing as you would expect:

Following up on earlier work published in the Law & Society Review, Gill’s paper looks at the “Judicial Performance Evaluations” that, according to guidelines established by the American Bar Association, that allow lawyers to assess the performance of judges. This information is then provided to voters and can play a role in judicial elections. However, these evaluations are anonymous and lawyers do not have to prove that they have actually argued a case in front of a judge they’re evaluating, so their value is not self-evident. What Gill’s analysis found is disturbing. As you can see if you scroll down to Table Four in Gill’s paper, with the exception of being accused of scandalous behavior none of the factors that could be expected to contribute to stronger judicial performance—judicial experience, educational background, reversal rates—had a significant effect on the performance evaluations. What did have a strong impact on judge evaluation was the race and gender of the judge, both of which had a strong negative correlation with assessment of their judicial ability. Being a woman or person of color hurts your judicial evaluations more than having a reported scandal.

I also discuss the extensive campaign arguing that Sotomayor wasn’t fit to join the towering intellects with perfect judicial temperament Republican presidents have appointed to the Court, which after this week has been revealed to be not merely sexism and racism but black comedy.

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