Thursday, June 2, 2022
Study of Gender-Based Judging on Swedish Supreme Court Shows Little Effect of Gender
Johan Lindholm, Mattias Derlen & Daniel Naurin, 'Nevertheless, She Persisted': Gender and Dissent on the Swedish Supreme Court
From the abstract:
In line with gender-based stereotypes and ideals of female agreeability and cooperativeness, research has shown that women tend to cooperate more and compete less than men (the competitiveness theory). The article empirically studies whether Swedish Supreme Court Justices practice of writing dissenting opinions follows the gender-based patterns that can be expected from the competitiveness theory. Issuing dissenting opinions is a well-established practice on the Supreme Court, but it is also a public form of collegial disagreement that is potentially especially socially costly for female Justices. We therefore hypothesize that female Justices avoid writing dissenting opinions, particularly alone, and help foster agreement on panels compared to male Justices. These hypotheses are not supported by the data and the behavior of Swedish Supreme Court Justices thus does not follow the competitiveness theory. We propose some explanations for this result, which runs counter to previous research, and point to possible future research.
The conclusion from the introduction:
Generally speaking, however, empirical evidence of an effect of gender on merit-based voting in previous research must be characterized as relatively weak. As observed by Leonard and Ross (2020, 278), “anyone hoping to find convincing evidence of consistent gender differences in decisions across a broad range of issues would be sorely disappointed by the extant literature”. The lack of more clear and strong empirical evidence of gender-based differences in judicial behavior is commonly explained by what is often characterized as the organizational theory. According to this theory, gender-based differences in judicial behavior are tempered by professional and organizational factors. While there is room for different legal reasoning, judges are restricted by the relatively narrow scope of what, in the mind of judges and other lawyers, constitutes acceptable legal reasoning and interpretations of the law, and individuals that fail to show an ability to act in accordance with and within these limits will have a difficult time becoming judges. In this way, the characteristics of the law in combination with the process involved in becoming a judge – a process that starts with an individual graduating from law school and ends with a judicial appointment – will both select individuals that behave in a particular way and shape those individuals’ behavior to conform with what the profession considers acceptable and appropriate behavior. Moreover, an argument can be made that the pressure to conform to existing (male-based) norms and to prove their competence is particularly strong on women who come in as ‘outsiders’ to judicial institutions that have traditionally been a male dominated environment (Davis, Haire, and Songer 1993, 133; see also Boyd, Epstein, and Martin 2010, 392; Boyd 2016, 790; Sisk, Heise, and Morriss 1998, 1453–1454). If
correct, the organizational theory could explain why previous research has not been able to show a strong and consistent effect of gender on merits voting.