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Monday, May 4, 2009

Are women judges different?

By Heather Waltman, Interlibrary Loan & Reference Librarian
Now that U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter has announced his retirement, many are speculating that President Obama will appoint a woman to fill his vacancy. Some who support this choice argue that women bring a unique approach to jurisprudence. In a recent Newsweek article, Dahlia Lithwick sums up the argument, first asserted by psychologist Carol Gilligan in 1982:

"...female moral reasoning differs from that of males. Men...prefer their law with rigid rules, clear lines and neutral principles; women prefer to look at the totality of the circumstances and favor... an ethic of care over an ethic of rights."

This will surely be a topic of lively debate as President Obama weighs his options for the new appointment. If you'd like to explore the idea further, take a look at the 2008 award-winning paper titled, Untangling the Causal Effects of Sex on Judging. It suggests that women judges do in fact bring something different to the bench. An extensive bibliography identifies additional sources.