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Gender Bias is Alive and Well in U.S. State Courts
Unformatted Document Text:  outcome more often adversely affects one gender versus another, for whatever the reason, that too may be considered gender bias.” Interviews with task force members suggest that even though going through the process of defining gender bias seems redundant after the first few task forces have done so and published their results, this stage of the process serves to raise the consciousness of task force members, many of whom are selected for their positions of authority or prestige in the legal profession, not their knowledge of gender issues (Swent 1998). Indeed, Wikler and Schrafran emphasize the educational aspects of the study process as being an important part of the goals to be accomplished. The task forces used a broad range of data-gathering approaches. They conducted public hearings, they conducted surveys of lawyers and judges (with the help of social scientists), they reviewed court decisions in the areas of juvenile law, battered women, rape law, and family law, they collected existing statistical data such as court employment patterns, they had private meetings with attorneys, and they conducted ‘listening sessions’ with laypeople (Wikler 1989). Feminist theory speaks of the need to hear women’s voices, and the task forces took that advice to heart, taking care to hear those voices, from women and men, from lawyers, judges, courthouse personnel, and litigants before the courts. They also, however, were mindful of the skepticism with which their reports might be received and so they also took care to develop ‘hard’ statistical data. The Florida Task Force, for example, designed three versions of a mail-out survey on gender bias – one for judges, one for members of the state bar, and a substantively 7

Authors: Martin, Elaine.
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outcome more often adversely affects one gender versus another, for whatever the reason,
that too may be considered gender bias.”
Interviews with task force members suggest that even though going through the
process of defining gender bias seems redundant after the first few task forces have done
so and published their results, this stage of the process serves to raise the consciousness
of task force members, many of whom are selected for their positions of authority or
prestige in the legal profession, not their knowledge of gender issues (Swent 1998).
Indeed, Wikler and Schrafran emphasize the educational aspects of the study process as
being an important part of the goals to be accomplished.
The task forces used a broad range of data-gathering approaches. They conducted
public hearings, they conducted surveys of lawyers and judges (with the help of social
scientists), they reviewed court decisions in the areas of juvenile law, battered women,
rape law, and family law, they collected existing statistical data such as court
employment patterns, they had private meetings with attorneys, and they conducted
‘listening sessions’ with laypeople (Wikler 1989). Feminist theory speaks of the need to
hear women’s voices, and the task forces took that advice to heart, taking care to hear
those voices, from women and men, from lawyers, judges, courthouse personnel, and
litigants before the courts. They also, however, were mindful of the skepticism with
which their reports might be received and so they also took care to develop ‘hard’
statistical data.
The Florida Task Force, for example, designed three versions of a mail-out survey
on gender bias – one for judges, one for members of the state bar, and a substantively
7


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