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Understanding the Judicial Role in Addressing Gender Bias: A View from the Eighth Circuit Federal Court System

  • Kimberly A. Lonsway, Leslie V. Freeman, Lilia M. Cortina, Vicki J. Magley and Louise F. Fitzgerald...

Abstract

The role of trial judges in the litigation process is frequently debated. Are judges to be dispassionate adjudicators, disengaged referees in a sport in which attorneys compete? Or are they charged with a more active role in promoting the substance, form, and process of justice? In the present paper, we explore the judicial role in addressing gender bias in federal litigation, using data gathered for the Eighth Circuit Gender Fairness Task Force. The federal judges of this circuit were surveyed about their experiences, observations, and opinions of gender-biased conduct. Results indicated that although judges viewed judicial intervention as an appropriate response to gender bias, they had little personal experience with intervention in such a situation. Fur thermore, when specific hypothetical scenarios were presented, they generally agreed that the described conduct was inappropriate but offered little consensus regarding the best course of action for an attorney or judge confronted with such behavior. The Eighth Circuit data thus provide the basis for expanded understanding of the conduct at issue, the options for action in response, and the persistent discrepancy in viewpoints on gender bias and the judicial role.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Correspondence regarding this manuscript may be addressed to the first author at The National Center for Women & Policing, 8105 W. Third Street, Los Angeles, Calif. 90048. Phone: (323) 651-2532; fax: (323) 653-2689; e-mail: klonsway@charter.net.

Footnotes

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The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Steve Landsman, Shari Diamond, and the anonymous reviewers. The majority of work was conducted while the first author held a postdoctoral research fellowship at the American Bar Foundation.

Footnotes

References

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Law & Social Inquiry
  • ISSN: 0897-6546
  • EISSN: 1747-4469
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