Tuesday, January 11, 2022
Career, Gender and Political Bias in Pretrial Decisions on Gender Violence: Evidence from a natural experiment in Spain
The aim of this paper is to provide an explanation of the variation in lower pretrial court judicial decisions over gender-violence cases, under a civil-law system. Despite the typical anonymity of lower-court judges in such legal systems, we are able to exploit a natural experiment in Spain that allows us to estimate the effect of judges’ gender, career incentives, and policy preferences on decisions on restraining orders for victims of gender violence. Although the literature has found ample evidence of gender and ideology effects on judicial behavior when women’s rights are at stake, we argue that due to career and promotion dynamics, career incentives moderate the effect of gender and policy preferences on such decisions. We find that the probability to grant a restraining order to a victim is higher among female judges than male judges, and that left-leaning judges also tend to grant restraining orders at higher rates. However, we also observe that these mechanisms are moderated by career incentives, to the point of blurring their effects when career pressures are high. These findings are a relevant contribution to the understanding of the mechanisms behind judicial inequality under civil-law systems, where judges’ attributes tend to be unobservable by institutional design.