Lower Court Judges: Do Men and Women View the Law Differently?

Alison C. Cares, The Pennsylvania State University
Darrell Steffensmeier, The Pennsylvania State University

Past studies of gender differences among members of the judiciary have focused on the trial and appellate level (Steffensmeier & Herbert 1999, Gruhl, Spohn & Welch 1981, Cook 1979, Kritzer & Uhlman 1977). This paper extends the study of general differences to members of the lower judiciary. In particular, it examines whether the gender-of-judge affects their attitudes towards sentencing and the law. Two models are considered: the gender model and the job model. Accoding to the gender model, there are important differences between men and women in their approaches to work. It assumes men and women are fundamentally different, and women will relate to work "as women." According to the job model, the job itself is central in molding attitudes and beliefs of workers. Men and women may seem different due to constraints and opportunities associated with gender, but those differences are overcome by the common constraints and experiences of the job. Analysis draws frm a study of members of the lower court judiciary in Pennsylvania. The full population of women justices was interviewed along with a random selection of men justices in the same counties. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews, courtroom observations, questionnaires and archival sources.

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Updated 05/20/2006