In March 2015, lawyer Dora Monserrate-Peñagaricano was representing a client in a deposition hearing in the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico when she complained aloud to a colleague that the room was hot.
Friday, August 4, 2017
Brooke D. Coleman, A Legal Fempire? Women in Complex Civil Litigation, 93 Indiana L.J. (2017)
This essay begins from the view that gender equity is important to the functioning and legitimacy of our legal system, and assesses gender equity—or rather the lack thereof—within the legal profession. First, the essay reflects on the gender bias task force movement that began almost four decades ago. Second, using a case study approach, the essay updates that work by examining the role of women on the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation, as judges, and in multidistrict litigation leadership roles. Finally, after assessing the ongoing barriers to gender equity in modern complex civil litigation as well as its modest gender equalizing reforms, the essay closes with a set of proposals for how to move toward gender equality.
Monday, July 17, 2017
While it is over 40 years since women won the right to be included on jury selection panels, men continue to dominate most juries in serious criminal trials.
An analysis by The Irish Times of 200 trials in the Central Criminal Court, which deals almost exclusively with rape and murder, shows that men dominated the jury in 57 per cent of cases.
Women dominated the jury in only 17 per cent of cases, while there was an even six/six split between the genders in 26 per cent of cases.
The gender imbalance was most noticeable in rape trials, where 61 of 100 juries were dominated by men compared to only 13 dominated by women. To put it another way, 723 men sat on the juries compared to 477 women.
In murder cases male jurors were in the majority in 52 cases compared to 23 with female-majority juries.
Both the reasons and consequences of the gender imbalance in Irish juries remain unclear, mainly due to the secretive nature of jury selection and jury deliberation.
Many studies suggest women are more likely to judge female rape complainants harshly and to acquit men accused of rape. In 2009, Irish academics who studied 108 rape trials found that male-dominated juries had the highest conviction rate. There was not a single conviction in the 17 cases which had female-dominated juries.
Friday, July 14, 2017
Instead of sentencing a woman to jail time for laughing during Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearing, a D.C. judge threw out the woman's conviction and called for a new trial.
Desiree Fairooz says her laughter during the attorney general's confirmation hearing in January was involuntary. (She was reacting to an assertion that Sessions treats all Americans equally.) Fairooz, who is an activist with the Code Pink organization, then protested as she was physically removed from the hearing. In May, she was convicted by a jury of disorderly, disruptive conduct and obstructing passage on U.S. Capitol grounds.
The charges carried up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. Two other protesters at Sessions' hearing faced similar charges.
But on Friday, the D.C. Superior Court judge overseeing Fairooz's sentencing called for a new trial instead.
Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post reports that Chief Judge Robert Morin decided that the government improperly argued that Fairooz's laugh alone — not her reaction to being removed from the courtroom — would be enough to find her guilty.
Monday, July 10, 2017
Maggie Hennefeld, On the Criminalization of Female Laughter
On January 10 2017, Desiree Fairooz, a 61-year-old Code Pink protester, was forcibly removed and arrested for laughing at Jeff Sessions during his Attorney General confirmation hearings. Fairooz’s eruption was provoked by an extremely laughable punch line, when Republican Senator Richard Shelby stated that Sessions has an “extensive record of treating all Americans fairly under the law,” adding that this claim “is clear and well-documented.”
As a description of a man who was once denied a federal judgeship due to concerns about his racism, who openly advocates anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ policies, and who casually jokes about the Ku Klux Klan, Shelby’s utterance was patently absurd and very deserving of public mockery and voluble laughter. For her protest, Fairooz now faces up to a year in jail and $2,000 in fines.
Her conviction in early May elicited a viral storm of outraged responses, including headlines such as “A Woman Is on Trial for Laughing During a Congressional Hearing,” “Activist’s Giggle Leads to Conviction,” and a piece authored by the Medusan disruptor herself, “I’m Facing Jail Time After Laughing at Jeff Sessions. I Regret Nothing.
How unprecedented is Fairooz’s indictment? Women are held in contempt of court all the time for laughing out loud at devastatingly inappropriate moments. In February 2017, a woman was sentenced to 93 days in jail for her voluble mirth at the gruesome details of a man’s death in a DUI accident, while the family members of the deceased were present in the courtroom. Laughing in disrespect of the dead has a legacy of retributive punishment: in 1862, a Confederate woman named Eugenia was arrested for laughing at the funeral procession of a Union soldier (she had also encouraged her children to spit on the uniforms of Union officers).
However, it was not the fact of Fairooz’s laughter that caused her arrest, so much as what it signified: to “impede and disrupt then Senator Sessions’ confirmation hearing by drawing attention away from the hearing itself and directing it instead toward the Defendants’ perception of the nominee’s racist views, policies, and voting record” (from a government motion filed against her). Her laughter evokes the anti-patriarchal outbursts in the classic feminist film, A Question of Silence (Marleen Gorris, 1982), in which three unruly women laugh exuberantly at their own murder trial, in response to the prosecution’s outlandish pretense that they live in a post-sexist society. (The women are on trial for killing a male boutique owner, whom they beat to death in an unpremeditated outburst of joyful fury due to his harassment of a female shoplifter.) In the film’s courtroom, this “question of silence” refers to the tyranny of lacking a voice against routine injustice, which then can only be articulated through defiant and disruptive laughter. ***
If we’ve come a long way with our laughter since the English Civil Wars of the 1640s—learning to laugh in empathy, in playful recognition of absurdity, or out of sheer muscular relief—this message has since been lost on Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. Catharine A. MacKinnon, Professor of Law at the University of Michigan and long-term visitor at Harvard Law School, has offered comment:
Criminally charging and potentially sentencing Ms. Fairooz for a brief spontaneous injection of political laughter as ‘disruptive’ when it, at least, so clearly was not looks like an overly thin-skinned reflex reaction to a woman appropriating what is usually a masculine form of power: ridicule, public humiliation by humor, in this case political speech against racism.
Tracy Thomas, Seiberling Chair of Constitutional Law at the University of Akron, suggests that being laughed at by a woman is perhaps “one of [men’s] greatest fears.” In a correspondence with her, Thomas referenced a survey from Nancy Dowd’s The Man in Question, “where women report their greatest fear is rape and murder, while men’s greatest fear is being laughed at.” Or, as the Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood has put it, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” To this point, the journalist and American humorist, Helen Rowland, wrote in 1922 that “a man will forgive his wife for committing robbery, or murder, or breaking the Ten Commandments, yet threaten to leave her for laughing at the wrong moment”—should she be so fortunate that he doesn’t beat or kill her. In 1893, a New Haven court heard the divorce petition of Emma B. Phelps, who described the time “she laughed at her husband…and he ‘knocked her senseless’” (another time he threatened to kill her with a carving knife because she would not give him her watch).
Thursday, July 6, 2017
Ellen Bublick, How Much is Your Injury Worth? First Tell me Your Race and Gender, JOTWELL, reviewing Ronen Avraham and Kimberly Yuracko, Torts and Discrimination, Law and Economic Research Paper No. E570 (2017), available at SSRN.
When plaintiffs suffer actionable injury, courts in the United States attempt to repair the harm by awarding compensatory damages that put victims in the position they would have been in but for the wrongs that they have suffered. Courts calculate an individualized measure of compensatory damages for each plaintiff. The damage measure not only includes plaintiff’s actual past expenses, but also, a plaintiff’s lost earning capacity, future pain and suffering, and future medical costs. As a starting point for juries’ projections, courts allow forensic economists to introduce three types of government-generated statistical tables—life expectancy tables, work-life expectancy tables and average-wage tables. (P. 17.) All of these tables come in blended and non-blended versions. The non-blended editions disaggregate data by race and gender. For example, a non-blended table might tell you that a “white” girl born in 2014 has a life expectancy of 81.2 years, while a “black or African American” boy has an expectancy of only 72.5 years.1 Similarly, a non-blended table might suggest that a 16-year old white male has a longer work-life expectancy than a black female. (P. 26.)
Courts frequently, perhaps “routinely,” permit the use of non-blended statistical tables as a foundation for damage awards in tort and other claims, including even Title VII discrimination cases. (Pp. 15, 59.) Furthermore, as Avraham and Yuracko document, legislatures have also adopted statutes or pattern jury instructions which permit gender-based, and sometimes race-based calculations. (P. 16.)
The problems with using race and gender in damage calculations are many. Building on the work of Martha Chamallas and Jennifer Wriggins in The Measure of Injury: Race, Gender and Tort Law (2010), and earlier works, Avraham and Yuracko argue that using gender and race based tables may well result in disparate damage awards, and not only reflect historical inequities, but perpetuate them. (P. 106.) Furthermore, they argue that these race and gender disparities may themselves create discriminatory incentives for care. Moreover, they find the explicit distinctions based on gender and race to be an embarrassment, presumably along the line of expressive harm (that welfare maximization values some lives above others). They suggest that the use of differentiated tables might be inaccurate and inefficient to boot. (Pp. 74-93.) Ultimately, the authors argue that “Courts should immediately stop using non-blended tables.”
Thursday, June 29, 2017
Call for Authors – Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Family Law Opinions
DEADLINE: FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2017
The U.S. Feminist Judgments Project seeks contributors of rewritten judicial opinions and commentaries for an edited collection tentatively titled, Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Family Law Opinions. This edited volume is part of a collaborative project among law professors and others to rewrite, from a feminist perspective, key judicial decisions in the United States. The initial volume, Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Opinions of the United States Supreme Court, edited by Kathryn M. Stanchi, Linda L. Berger, and Bridget J. Crawford, was published in 2016 by Cambridge University Press. Subsequent volumes in the series will focus on different areas of law and will be under review by Cambridge.
Volume editor Rachel Rebouché seeks prospective authors for twelve to fifteen rewritten family law opinions covering a range of topics. With the assistance of an advisory panel of distinguished family law scholars, the editor has selected decisions that have not appeared in other Feminist Judgment volumes. Potential authors are welcome to suggest other opinions, but given certain constraints, the list of cases will likely remain the same. A description of the process of selecting decisions, as well as a list of cases considered but not included, can be found on the application website (link below).
Proposals must be to either 1. rewrite an opinion (subject to a 10,000-word limit) or 2. comment on a rewritten opinion (4,000-word limit). Rewritten decisions may be majority opinions, dissents, or concurrences. Authors of rewritten opinions should abide by the law and precedent in effect at the time of the original decision. Commentators should explain the original court decision, how the feminist judgment differs from the original judgment, and what difference a feminist judgment might have made. The volume editor conceives of feminism broadly and invites applications that seek to advance, complicate, or critique feminist ideas and advocacy.
Those who are interested in rewriting an opinion or providing commentary should complete the form found here:
Applications are due no later than Friday, July 21, 2017. The editor will notify accepted authors and commentators by Monday, July 31, 2017.
First drafts of rewritten opinions will be due on Friday, February 2, 2018. First drafts of commentaries will be due on Friday, March 9, 2018.
If you have any questions, please contact Rachel Rebouché at email@example.com
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Using data on 1,901 U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments between 1998 and 2012, we document that voice-based snap judgments based on lawyers’ identical introductory sentences, “Mr. Chief Justice, (and) may it please the Court?”, predict court outcomes. The connection between vocal characteristics and court outcomes is specific only to perceptions of masculinity and not other characteristics, even when judgment is based on less than three seconds of exposure to a lawyer’s speech sample. Consistent with employers irrationally favoring lawyers with masculine voices, perceived masculinity is negatively correlated with winning and the negative correlation is larger in more masculine-sounding industries. The first lawyer to speak is the main driver. Among these petitioners, males below median in masculinity are 7 percentage points more likely to win in the Supreme Court. Justices appointed by Democrats, but not Republicans, vote for less-masculine men. Female lawyers are also coached to be more masculine and women’s perceived femininity predict court outcomes. Republicans, more than Democrats, vote for more feminine-sounding females. A de-biasing strategy is tested and shown to reduce evaluators’ tendency to perceive masculine voices as more likely to win. Perceived masculinity explains 3-10% additional variance compared to the current best prediction model of Supreme Court votes.
Friday, April 14, 2017
“You’re not getting menopause, I hope,” interjected the opposing lawyer, Camilo Salas, in front of 14 other, mostly male, lawyers.
Monserrate bridled at his comment. And in a sanctions hearing several months later, U.S. District Judge Francisco A. Besosa also chastised Salas for it, quoting the American Bar Association report First Chairs at Trial: More Women Need Seats at the Table to emphasize the comment’s discriminatory nature and negative impact: “An ABA report published this year,” stated the judge, “identified ‘inappropriate or stereotypical comments’ directed at female attorneys by opposing counsel as one of the causes of the marked underrepresentation of women in lead trial attorney roles.”
It’s not the only time that the First Chairs report—which examines why there is a dearth of women lawyers in lead counsel and trial counsel posts and what to do about it—has been cited in sanction hearings. Since its release in 2015, this first-of-its-kind study, published as a joint project of the American Bar Foundation and the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession (CWP), seems to be having the precise effect that its coauthors hoped it would.
“I think having judges call that behavior out, and having a study that they can rely on,” is a powerful tool for change, says coauthor Roberta D. Liebenberg, a former chair of the CWP and a senior partner at Philadelphia-based Fine, Kaplan and Black, R.P.C. Stephanie A. Scharf, who heads the litigation practice at the women-owned Chicago firm Scharf Banks Marmor LLC, served as Liebenberg’s coauthor.
The two began by taking a random sample (608 cases) of all the civil and criminal cases filed in 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. They examined the cases from the perspectives of (1) type of case, (2) type of practice setting, and (3) type of client. They found that women were consistently underrepresented in lead counsel roles in almost all types of legal settings. Notably, men were three times more likely than women to serve as lead counsel in civil cases. And when surveying criminal cases, the authors found that men were four times more likely than women to serve as trial lawyers.
“You could go into any courtroom and just by being there know that there are not enough women as first chair trial lawyers,” Liebenberg says. “But because we did the statistics, the thing has really taken off. It’s been cited by several courts in sanctioning lawyers for biased behavior, like during a deposition. It’s been cited in a law review article. It’s been cited by The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. And it really shows you how important the statistical backup is—to validate what we can all see with our eyes.”
Friday, March 24, 2017
Tonja Jacobi & Dylan Schweers, Justice, Interrupted: The Effect of Gender, Ideology and Seniority at Supreme Court Oral Arguments, 103 Virginia L. Rev. (forthcoming 2017).
This Article studies how the justices compete to have influence at oral argument, by examining the extent to which the Justices interrupt each other; it also scrutinizes how advocates interrupt the Justices, contrary to the rules of the Court. We find that judicial interactions at oral argument are highly gendered, with women being interrupted at disproportionate rates by their male colleagues, as well as by male advocates. Oral argument interruptions are also highly ideological, not only because ideological foes interrupt each other far more than ideological allies do, but we show that conservatives interrupt liberals more frequently than vice versa. Seniority also has some influence on oral arguments, but primarily through the female justices learning over time how to behave more like male justices, avoiding traditionally female linguistic framing in order to reduce the extent to which they are dominated by the men.
For another report reaching a similar conclusion, see Study Shows Male Justices Interrupt Female Justices More During Oral Argument
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Amy Cohen & Aya Gruber, Governance Feminism in New York's Alternative "Human Trafficking Intervention Courts"
In New York’s new Human Trafficking Intervention Courts (HTICs), mostly female defendants are prosecuted for prostitution-related offenses and then offered social services in lieu of more traditional criminal justice sentences. These alternative problem-solving courts represent a reconceptualization of the status of prostitution defendants in the New York criminal court system: formerly regarded as low priority, quality-of-life offenders, they are perceived by the HTICs as presumptive victims of gender-based violence. This chapter explores the role that feminists, holding a range of views on commercial sex, played in the creation of these new courts even as it argues that virtually no feminist position — liberal, abolitionist, sex worker — should condone the arrest of women for selling sex. It explores how some feminists embraced the courts as depoliticized providers of services while others made strategic decisions to work with the new courts despite clear ideological misgivings. As such, the chapter argues, the HTICs raise questions endemic to all governance feminism projects: when and why is it worth it to compromise feminist aims?
Co-author Amy Cohen also has a second article on the history of the New York prostitution courts. Trauma and the Welfare State: A Genealogy of Prostitution Courts in New York City, Texas L. Rev. (forthcoming).
At least since the early twentieth century, informal specialized prostitution courts have tried to double as social welfare agencies. For this reason, prostitution courts illustrate in particularly explicit ways how public welfare administration and criminal court administration share similar ideas and practices and how these ideas and practices reinvent themselves over time. The article traces three moments of prostitution court reform in New York City: the New York Women’s Court that opened in Manhattan in 1910, the Midtown Community Court that opened in Manhattan in 1993, and four new prostitution courts that opened in New York City in 2013. It examines how court reformers in each moment use informal procedure to promote social welfare, social control, and individual responsibility, and it ties each approach to changing conceptions of the American welfare state. Ultimately, the article argues that the genealogy of prostitution courts illuminates for the present how court reformers are using the language of trauma to negotiate the welfare logics of today.
See also Mae Quinn, Ann Moscowitz Kross and the Home Term Part: A Second Look at the Nation's First Criminal Domestic Violence Court, 41 Akron L.Rev. 733 (2008)
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Lorraine Kokinchak v. Postmaster General (3d Cir. Feb. 3, 2017)
Even if we were to consider the unexhausted allegations of sexual harassment, the behavior Kokinchak complains about falls short of the sort of conduct courts have said constitutes hostile work environment sexual harassment. See, e.g., Harris, 510 U.S. at 19-20; Meritor, 477 U.S. at 60-61. All of these allegations—those exhausted and unexhausted—consist merely of Brents's presence near Kokinchak. As the Postmaster General points out, Kokinchak “does not allege that Brents ever touched her sexually, was physically threatening, made lewd or inappropriate comments, or even that Brents spoke to her at all.” Appellee Br. at 24. Even considering Brents's status as someone Kokinchak formerly accused of harassment, no instance of Brents's occasional and sporadic presence near Kokinchak could rationally be considered severe, and together they occurred too infrequently—a few occasions spanning years—to be pervasive. While they may have been subjectively unwelcomed by Kokinchak, an objective person could not conclude they altered the terms and conditions of her workplace. Title VII does not create “a general civility code for the American workplace.” Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 80 (1998). Instead, Title VII prohibits actual “discriminat[ion] because of sex.” Id.
Second, we agree with the District Court that there is no per se rule of hostile work environment when a plaintiff is forced to work in proximity with a former harasser. A plaintiff must prove hostile work environment using the five prong test described above, which includes showing the conduct was “severe or pervasive.” Mandel, 706 F.3d at 167.
Monday, February 13, 2017
Adam Feldman & Rebecca Gill, Echoes from a Gendered Court: Examining the Justices' Interactions during Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Abstract:Supreme Court oral arguments are the only publicly scheduled opportunities for the Justices and advocates to directly engage in discussions about a case. There are few rules to regulate these conversations. Within this unique setting and due to the lack of argument structure combined with the limited time allotted to each argument, the Justices vie for chances to speak, sometimes at the expense of utterances from other Justices. In this Article we examine how the Justices’ genders dictate much of the Justices’ interactions and ultimately the power structure of oral argument.
This Article shows how gender is an embedded characteristic of the oral arguments and how the Justices’ appropriations and perceptions of gender roles create disparities in the balance of authority on the Court. The Article’s analysis shows a major gap between male Justices’ interruptions of female Justices and female Justices interruptions’ of male Justices during oral arguments. After discussing why this is problematic, the Article offers suggestions for how the Court can reduce these interruptions through institutional reforms. The Article’s analyses corroborate conversational and power dynamics previously elucidated by sociolinguists, but also extend those findings to the insular environment of the United States Supreme Court.
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent a large portion of her legal career advocating for women’s rights and was appointed as the second female justice to the Supreme Court in 1993. In this animated interview, she describes attending law school with a 14-month-old baby at home. Ginsburg attributes some of her career successes to her husband’s flexibility and the experience of being a mother. “I think I had better balance, better sense of proportions of what matters,” she says. "I felt each part of my life gave me respite from the other.”
This interview was conducted by Ryan Park for his story "What Ruth Bader Ginsburg Taught Me About Being a Stay-at-Home Dad".
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Hannah Brenner & Renee Newman Knake, Shortlisted, UCLA Women's L.J. (forthcoming)
Abstract:Mildred Lillie fortunately had no children, as the New York Times noted in 1971, and even in her fifties, maintained “a bathing beauty figure.” Lillie was not, however, a swimsuit model. She was one of President Nixon’s possible nominees to the United States Supreme Court. Shortlisted tells the stories of nearly a dozen extraordinary women considered for the Court, but ultimately not nominated, before Justice Sandra Day O’Connor became the first in 1981. The public nature of the nomination process enables us to analyze the scrutiny of these women by the profession and media, and analogize to those similarly not selected, elected, or appointed to political office, corporate governance, the judiciary, law firm partnership, and other positions of power. We find that the stories of those women who did not attain these various power roles are as compelling as those who did. Our work builds upon and transcends previous scholarly work on the theory of the “leaking pipeline” — i.e. that women enter the profession in numbers equal to men but do not advance — and dispels the persistent myth that there is a dearth of sufficiently qualified women. The framework for this project, exploring decades of women shortlisted to the Court pre-O’Connor from Presidents Roosevelt to Reagan, allows gender bias to be viewed in a vibrant historical context and illuminates ideas for future advancement of women in law and beyond. Shortlisted explores the gendered experiences of this elite group of women — both professional and personal — and situates their stories within the context of gender, judging, and the legal profession. This project is one of first impression. We are the first scholars to identify and assess these women together in light of their shared experience of being shortlisted. Their individual and collective stories have largely gone untold. Until now
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Blurring the Boundaries of Unjustified Impact and Disparate Treatment in Employment Sex Discrimination Cases
Deborah Brake, The Shifting Sands of Employment Discrimination: From Unjustified Impact to Disparate Treatment in Pregnancy and Pay, Georgetown L.J. (forthcoming)
Abstract:In 2015, the Supreme Court decided its first major pregnancy discrimination case in nearly a quarter century. The Court’s decision in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., made a startling move: despite over four decades of Supreme Court case law roping off disparate treatment and disparate impact into discrete and separate categories, the Court crafted a pregnancy discrimination claim that permits an unjustified impact on pregnant workers to support the inference of discriminatory intent necessary to prevail on a disparate treatment claim. The decision cuts against the grain of established employment discrimination law by blurring the impact/treatment boundary and relaxing the strictness of the similarity required between comparators in order to establish discriminatory intent.This article situates the newly-minted pregnancy discrimination claim in Young against the backdrop of employment discrimination law generally and argues that the Court’s hybrid treatment-by-impact claim is in good company with other outlier cases in which courts blur the boundaries of the impact/treatment line. The article defends the use of unjustified impact to prove pregnancy discrimination as well-designed to reach the kind of implicit bias against pregnant workers that often underlies employer refusals to extend accommodations to pregnant workers.While Young is not likely to prompt an earthquake in employment discrimination doctrine, this article identifies and defends a parallel development in the law governing pay discrimination that similarly incorporates unjustified impact into a disparate treatment framework. This move has already begun in some lower courts and is a central feature of the primary focal point of legislative reform, the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act. As is the case with pregnancy discrimination, pay discrimination largely stems from implicit judgments devaluing women as workers rather than conscious decisions to disfavor women because of their sex. Importing the Young theory of unjustified impact into the pay claim is necessary to make it a more viable tool for reaching the kind of bias that manifests as pay discrimination in the modern workforce. The insights developed in this article from exploring the theory and doctrine in Young provide support for the parallel development that is on the cusp of taking hold in the equal pay claim.The article concludes with some thoughts about why, given the malleability in fact, if not in judicial rhetoric, of the treatment and impact categories, disparate treatment provides the preferable grounding for these developments. Doctrinal advantages aside, the disparate treatment framing of pregnancy and pay discrimination claims best resonates with the social movement work of contesting the gender ideologies at the heart of these injustices.
Female Judges Alone are Not a Sufficient Condition for Promoting Women's Rights: The Example of Ghana
Josephine Dawuni, To Mother or Not to Mother: The Representative Roles of Women Judges in Ghana, J. of Africa Law.
Abstract:Feminist scholars have debated questions of gender and judging by focusing on variables such as representation, difference, diversity and legitimacy. While illuminating, most of these studies are by scholars in the global north. More research is needed to understand issues of gender and judging in the global south. This article adds to existing literature by asking whether women judges promote women's rights. Through in-depth interviews with women judges in Ghana, the article demonstrates that women judges do promote women's rights. The article presents a new method of analysis: exploring the dichotomy between direct and indirect modes of representing women's rights. Recognizing the importance of substantive representation and the contributions of female judges in promoting women's rights, it argues that female judges are not a sufficient condition for promoting women's rights. Necessary conditions include laws guaranteeing women's rights, working partnerships with women's civil society organizations and an enabling socio-cultural climate.
Monday, January 9, 2017
I have just published the essay Reconsidering the Remedy of Gender Quotas, Harv. J. Gender & Law (online) (Nov. 2016). It takes on the question of the legality of instituting a more permanent, structural reform for gender equality through the judicial mechanism of quotas.
Rather than stumbling along the path of continued sex discrimination by the ineffective application of judicial Band-Aids to systemic problems, it is time for alteration of the power structure itself. It’s time for the law to endorse the equal representation of women in all power venues in order to remedy—permanently—longstanding, resistant systemic sex discrimination.5 And the way to achieve this goal of gender parity might be quotas.
“Quota” is a dirty word. In U.S law and society, we are “quota-phobic,” vehemently resisting an idea alleged to be based on political correctness in place of merit. Quotas, however, offer a powerful systemic remedy that can reach entrenched bias and provide meaningful and tangible change - virtually overnight as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet decision of 50/50 shows.
A quota remedy would require gender parity—proportional representation of women in positions of power. The proportion would match the gender distribution of the general population; so women as about 51% of the population should constitute 51% of the managers, boards, CEOs, legislatures, and law firm partners, as well as STEM majors and law students. Judges too, would then be 51% women (although Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested she would not stop there, opining that the Supreme Court would have the right number of women justices “[w]hen there are nine.”).
This article first demonstrates the longstanding ineffectiveness of other remedies for systemic sex discrimination and the power quotas potentially offer. It then discusses the use of gender quotas for European corporate boards, academic advisory boards, and political representatives to show the viability of gender quotas as a legal solution. Finally, it concludes that gender quotas as a judicially-imposed remedy would survive constitutional scrutiny under the Supreme Court's existing intermediate scrutiny standard.
Gender quotas have been highlighted in several places recently, including:
The Newsweek writers' settlement portrayed in the TV series (and book) "Good Girls Revolt"
The ABA Rule mandating diverse CLE panels
Friday, January 6, 2017
The West Virginia Supreme Court will have a female majority for the first time when Beth Walker takes the bench next week.
Walker will join Justices Margaret Workman and Robin Davis in making West Virginia one of 11 top courts that will have a majority of justices who are women in 2017.
Other states with a female majority are Arkansas, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin.
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Ann Gordon, The Trial of Susan B. Anthony, Federal Judicial Center (2005)
United States v. Susan B. Anthony was a criminal trial in the federal courts. In the federal election in November 1872, Anthony, the best-known advocate of woman suffrage, registered to vote and then voted. The government charged her with the crime of voting without “the legal right to vote in said election district”—she, in the words of the indictment, “being then and there a person of the female sex.” Her trial revealed the complexity of federalism in the post-Civil War years. She was convicted in federal court under federal law for violating state law about who was eligible to vote. New York state law prohibited women from voting, and a recent federal law provided for the criminal prosecution of anyone who voted in congressional elections “without having a lawful right to vote.”
Primarily a case about woman suffrage and sexual discrimination, United States v. Susan B. Anthony is also a case about Reconstruction and the balance of federal and state authority. Prior to the Civil War, the demand for woman suffrage was directed to state governments, each of which set the qualifications of voters in the respective states. Reconstruction redirected the demand. The federal government assumed some authority over the voting qualifications enacted by the states, and woman suffragists saw in that change an opportunity to extend voting rights not only to black men but also to black and white women. They called for universal suffrage.
Anthony and the members of the National Woman Suffrage Association, after failing to gain explicit reference to the voting rights of women in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, set about testing the meaning of what those amendments did say and how the amendments might have changed the rights of women. Anthony was among a group of women in the country trying to establish, through test cases in the federal courts, that the amendments had so redefined citizenship and rights that women were protected by the federal government in their right to vote.
(Cartoon mocking SBA for wanting to vote)
Remarks by Susan B. Anthony in the Circuit Court of the Northern District of New York, June 19, 1873
As a matter of outward form the defendant was asked if she had anything to say why the sentence of the court should not be pronounced upon her.
"Yes, your honor," replied Miss Anthony, "I have many things to say. My every right, constitutional, civil, political and judicial has been tramped upon. I have not only had no jury of my peers, but I have had no jury at all."
Court—"Sit down Miss Anthony. I cannot allow you to argue the question."
Miss Anthony—"I shall not sit down. I will not lose my only chance to speak."
Court—"You have been tried, Miss Anthony, by the forms of law, and my decision has been rendered by law."
Miss Anthony—"Yes, but laws made by men, under a government of men, interpreted by men and for the benefit of men. The only chance women have for justice in this country is to violate the law, as I have done, and as I shall continue to do," and she struck her hand heavily on the table in emphasis of what she said. "Does your honor suppose that we obeyed the infamous fugitive slave law which forbade to give a cup of cold water to a slave fleeing from his master? I tell you we did not obey it; we fed him and clothed him, and sent him on his way to Canada. So shall we trample all unjust laws under foot. I do not ask the clemency of the court. I came into it to get justice, having failed in this, I demand the full rigors of the law."
See also Doug Linder, Famous American Trials: The Trial of Susan B. Anthony and Trial Record in the Case of Susan B. Anthony
Thursday, November 3, 2016
These are dangerous times for judicial appointments, according to Sally J. Kenney, an expert on judicial selection and social movements.
Kenney, the author of the book “Gender and Justice: Why Women in the Judiciary Really Matter," was the keynote speaker for “The U.S. Feminist Judgments Project."
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Kenney said it is important that more women and minority men serve on the bench, and that it is no longer enough that judges are well qualified.
“We need to know what their positions are on domestic violence and sexual assault,” she said. “Do they believe boys need their fathers even if those fathers were batterers? And joint custody puts mothers at risk? Do they believe women routinely lie about domestic violence in divorce cases or sexual assault in general? Do they easily dismiss women’s fear of stalkers and harassers? Do police officers and those serving in the military who are more likely than the general population to be batterers deserve to retain their firearms even after threatening intimates?”
Judges should consistently uphold rules even when those rules go against the political party of the president who appointed them, Kenney said, adding that senators should be held accountable for failing to do their job.
“No one disputes whether Merrick Garland is qualified. No one thinks he has extreme political views,” she said. “Now it appears senators can just say ‘no.’”
Kenney also said it is important that judges be willing to change positions when confronted with social facts.
“I think we should be able to demand that judges be the most distinguished members of the legal profession, without having to turn them into deductive machines or robots or think of them as neutrals,” she said.
“I also believe the issue is not the difference women make on the bench, but the message their absence sends,” she added. “It is important to have women and minority men on the bench.