Myth of the Color-Blind Judge: An Empirical Analysis of Racial Harassment Cases
60 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2008 Last revised: 11 Jan 2009
Date Written: 2008
This empirical study of over 400 federal cases, representing workplace racial harassment jurisprudence over a twenty-year period, found that judges' race significantly affects outcomes in these cases. African American judges rule differently than White judges, even when we take into account their political affiliation and case characteristics. At the same time, our findings indicate that judges of all races are attentive to relevant facts of the cases but interpret them differently. Thus, while we cannot predict how an individual judge might act, our study results strongly suggest that African American judges as a group and White judges as a group perceive racial harassment differently. These findings counter the traditional myth of judicial decision-making that the race of a judge would not make a difference, since the decision-making process is presumed to be rational and objective.
Given the underrepresentation of minority judges on the federal bench, the growing minority population in the U.S., and minority skepticism of judicial fairness, this article offers empirical support for a more racially-diverse judiciary. Having more judges of color promises to increase diverse perspectives in the judicial system and to unveil the complex reality of racial dynamics in the workplace.
Keywords: civil rights, racial harassment, race discrimination, empirical research, employment practice, courts, judges
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