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What's Gender Got to Do with It? Incivility in the Federal Courts

  • Lilia M. Cortina, Kimberly A. Lonsway, Vicki J. Magley, Leslie V. Freeman, Linda L. Collinsworth, Mary Hunter and Louise F. Fitzgerald...


The current study examines experiences of interpersonal mistreatment in federal litigation among a random sample of 4,608 practicing attorneys. Using both quantitative and qualitative survey data, we documented the nature and interplay of general incivility, gender-related incivility, and unwanted sexual attention. Nearly 75% of female attorneys had experienced some form of this misconduct in the previous five years, compared to half of male attorneys. An in-depth examination of instigators revealed that not only fellow attorneys but also federal judges, court personnel, marshals, and court security officers instigated the inappropriate behavior. We further found that most attorneys responded to this mistreatment with avoidance and denial; few used or trusted existing reporting mechanisms. The current study surpassed simple prevalence estimates to document effects of interpersonal mistreatment on the professional well-being of targeted attorneys. We discuss implications of these results, drawing on theories of social dominance, sex-role spillover, cognitive stress, organizations, and intervention.


Corresponding author

Please address correspondence to Lilia M. Cortina, University of Michigan, Department of Psychology, 525 E. University, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1109. E-mail:


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