The Gatekeepers: Federal District Courts in the Political Process

By Kevin L. Lyles | Go to book overview

9 Does Gender Make a Difference?: Perceptions and Attitudes of Female District Court Judges

Times are changing. The president made that clear by appointing me, and just last week, naming five other women to Article III courts. . . . Justice Sandra Day O'Connor recently quoted Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Jeanne Coyne, who was asked: Do women judges decide cases differently by virtue of being a woman? Justice Coyne replied that, in her experience, "a wise old man and a wise old woman reach the same conclusion."

I agree, but I also have no doubt that women, like persons of different racial groups and ethnic origins, contribute . . . a "distinctive medley of views influenced by differences in biology, cultural impact, and life experience."

A system of justice will be richer for diversity of background and experience. It will be poorer, in terms of appreciating what is at stake and the impact of its judgments, if all of its members are cast from the same mold.

-- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, remarks following her inauguration as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, August 10, 19931


INTRODUCTION

In line with the above remarks of Justice Ginsburg, this chapter offers a comparative assessment of how female and male federal district court judges view various aspects related to the nature and role of their courts in the policy system. In addition, specific attention is given to how these judges assess the judicial appointment and selection processes, as well as their own role and function as policy actors.

This assessment, just as in the previous chapter, is based on data gained from the NDJS. Overall, the findings provide a descriptive picture as to whether and to what extent differences exist between male and female district court judges. Both the assessment and findings, just as in the previous discussion on race (Chapter 8), might prove better understood when placed in the overall context of

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