Topic: Open Court: Would you rather have a female judge if you're suing for sex discrimination? 

1.  Open Court: Would you rather have a female judge if you're suing for sex discrimination?

Posted 17 days ago

If you're a plaintiff in a sex-discrimination lawsuit, things might turn out better for you if the presiding judge is a woman.

That's less of a sexist assumption than you might think. A 96-page research paper to be published in the Journal of Labor of Economics reports that:

  • If a female judge is presiding over a sex-discrimination case, a plaintiff is 6.7 percent more likely to settle than if a male judge oversees the lawsuit.
  • A plaintiff is 7.1 percent more likely to win a judgment if the judge is a woman.
  • A plaintiff is 5 percent to 7 percent more likely to be awarded compensation if a female judge presides over the case.
  • Female judges are 15 percent less likely to grant motions filed by defendants.

The paper was written by a Commerce Department economist who examined about 2,300 workplace sex-discrimination claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission between 1997 and 2006.

About 30 percent of federal and state court judges are female – an increase of about 5 percentage points since 2010 -- and the paper suggests that as more women become judges, a larger percentage of plaintiffs in sex-discrimination lawsuits may receive better outcomes.

A 2010 study in The American Journal of Political Science found that female appellate court judges generally did not rule differently than their male peers, with the exception of sex-discrimination cases. In those cases, female judges ruled in favor of plaintiffs 10 percent more often than did male judges.

Matthew Knepper, the Commerce Department economist who wrote the paper, theorizes that this may be the case because women judges may be more attuned to "less egregious forms of sex discrimination" than male judges.

Knepper is one of many researchers trying to understand how a judge's gender might influence his or her rulings. It's interesting to see more data support long-held assumptions.

What do you think of the conclusions in this new report? And are women judges more attuned to subtle forms of sex discrimination?

Mark DiVincenzo
Communications Manager
National Center for State Courts
Williamsburg VA
(757) 259-1584