Systemic Empathy

29 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2003 Last revised: 13 Mar 2009

See all articles by Michael J. Zimmer

Michael J. Zimmer

Loyola University Chicago School of Law


The thrust of this article is to help courts develop a more empathetic attitude toward the victims of discrimination. Starting with the grim history of the lack of sympathy of the courts towards workers' rights generally and then describing how the sympathy of the courts towards the victims of discrimination declined after the era of the Civil Rights Movement ended, the article calls for judges to adopt the perspective of the victims of discrimination when deciding discrimination cases. In light of the Supreme Court decision in Reeves v. Sandford Plumbing Products, Inc., the courts should be more open to hear evidence and to draw inferences that support at least a more sympathetic viewpoint toward the victims of discrimination. Recent data further supports the fact that discrimination persists at a high level, particularly among a considerable number of "hard core" discriminators. Calling for more systemic discrimination cases to be brought - a new mini-Civil Rights Movement in the courts - the article also shows how this data can be used to educate the judiciary toward a more sympathetic, or even empathetic, perspective toward the victims of discrimination.

Suggested Citation

Zimmer, Michael J., Systemic Empathy. Columbia Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 34, p. 575, 2003, Available at SSRN:

Michael J. Zimmer (Contact Author)

Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )

25 E. Pearson
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312.915.7919 (Phone)
312.915.7201 (Fax)

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