In Their Own Words: Women Judges' Reflections on Gender and Judging

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 17 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Nancy MARDER, Chicago-Kent College of Law, USA
            In the United States, the number of women who are judges still lags far behind the number of men who are judges, but women judges are reflecting, speaking, and writing about gender and judging in growing numbers.  Women judges, whether they are state or federal court judges, and whether they sit on trial courts, appellate courts, or even the U.S. Supreme Court, are no longer reticent about drawing attention to themselves or to their views on gender.  They no longer feel that they must keep a low profile and just blend in with their male colleagues.  Instead, they are giving speeches, participating in televised panel discussions, and writing law review articles and books, in which they examine the implications of gender and judging, including whether women judges reach different results, run their courtrooms in different ways, and carry out leadership roles differently than their male colleagues.  Women judges are expressing their views in sufficient numbers that there are a diversity of views and no single “woman judge’s” perspective prevails.

            This paper examines women judges’ reflections on judging and gender by looking to their own words, as they appear in writing and speeches.  The paper identifies their points of agreement and disagreement--from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s view that “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life” to retired Supreme Court Justice O’Connor’s view that “a wise old woman and wise old man will reach the same conclusion" in deciding cases.  Now that women judges are assuming leadership roles as chief judges in growing numbers, this paper also explores their views on gender, judging, and leadership, as they have explained them in interviews and writing.