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Chivalry Still Alive in Federal Court
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A recent study shows interesting differences in rulings depending on the genders of the judges on the bench.

Summary: A recent study shows interesting differences in rulings depending on the genders of the judges on the bench.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog, chivalry is still alive and well in some parts of the world—particularly in the federal court system in the United States.


A recent study looked at how male judges decide cases. Other studies have examined how male and female judges differ, but this group of researchers examined how male qualities impact the decisions in court cases.

Professors Michael Kagan, Rebecca D. Gill, and Fatma Marouf studied 100 immigration cases in the 11 federal appellate courts that review them. Each case is decided by a panel of three judges.

Louisiana’s longest sitting judge has been ordered off the bench.

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The researchers predicted that chivalry theory would be supported, or that men view women as “damsels in distress” who need to be protected, so male judges would be kinder to female litigants. Additionally, they predicted that judges would be stricter on male litigants if they pleaded for residency, because this demonstrated vulnerability. According to masculinity theory, which the researches expected to find, men are taught that they should not be emotional or vulnerable, so male judges may be harder on those who appeared this way in court.

In February, a judge was indicted for racial abuse.

The researchers were correct. Female litigants had “significantly better” results if the panel was all male than if they had been in front of mix-gender panels. Male litigants received less favorable rulings if they were in front of male panels instead of mixed gender panels.

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The authors also predicted that adding one female judge to the panel would neutralize any gender bias. However, men had better results with mixed panels than women did.

One woman’s case was dismissed by a judge when she had an outburst.

The study read, “While all-male panels are more favorable to female litigants and less so to male litigants, adding female judges to the panel seems to reverse this effect without achieving equality. That there is a significant difference between the grant rates presents a new problem … Are all-male panels too lenient on women and too hard on men? Are mixed panels too lenient on men and too hard on women? Our results provide no clear answer to these questions. Instead, our results suggest that the impact of gender on judging is highly dynamic.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal Law Blog

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