Previous research suggests that judges make more favorable rulings for female litigants in family court cases and in criminal sentencing. Although such trends might arise from real differences between men and women, they might also arise from stereotypes that cause judges to favor mothers over fathers and to show leniency towards female defendants. We test for benevolent sexism among hundreds of sitting trial judges with two experiments in which we presented judges with hypothetical cases in which we only varied the gender of the litigants. In a family court case, we found judges were more apt to grant a request to allow relocation from a mother than from an otherwise identical father. In a criminal case, we found that judges sentenced a female defendant to less prison time than an otherwise identical male defendant. The results demonstrate that judges engage in benevolent sexism towards female litigants in common legal settings.
Jeffrey J. Rachlinski & Andrew J. Wistrich,
Benevolent Sexism in Judges,
San Diego L. Rev.
Available at: https://digital.sandiego.edu/sdlr/vol58/iss1/3