Saturday, October 10, 2009
Slate Magazine: Do Women Make Better Judges?, by Stephen Choi, Mitu Gulati, Mirya Holman, & Eric Posner:
Justice Sonia Sotomayor's elevation to the Supreme Court brought to the surface a long-simmering controversy about the relationship between gender and judging. Are female nominees for judicial positions chosen based on affirmative action? If so, are women on the bench worse judges than men—or do they come with advantages that men lack? This controversy has legs. If Justice Ginsburg is forced to retire this term because of illness, reducing the number of female justices from two to one, there will be a great deal of pressure on President Obama to nominate another female jurist. Or if Justice John Paul Stevens retires, why not three women on the high court? . . .
The claim that women are worse—or better—than men at judging should be susceptible to empirical investigation. There is no obvious way, however, to measure judicial quality; lawyers dispute endlessly whether cases are rightly or wrongly decided—and, ultimately, a good judge is just a judge who decides cases correctly. Still, we have come up with some indirect measures of judicial quality. These include productivity (how many opinions judges write), influence (how frequently other judges rely on their opinions), and independence (how often judges dissent from opinions written by judges who belong to the same political party). We looked at the performance of hundreds of judges over a number of years and working in different types of courts—state supreme courts, federal trial courts, and federal appellate courts. (Our paper is here.) . . .
[O]ur basic point is this: The fact that female judges are selected from a shallower pool of talent does not imply that they are worse judges than men. In fact, the evidence suggests that they are at least as good as male judges, perhaps better. When she sat on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Sotomayor ranked among the most cited federal appellate judges in the country. Bring on the women!