Does the underrepresentation of women on the bench hurt justice?Does the underrepresentation of women on the bench hurt justice?
It only hurts justice if you believe in the idea of descriptive representation. This is the idea that people can only be represented by those who are like them in some physical way (same race, same sex). In this point of view, having fewer women judges means that women cannot get equal justice in the legal system.
If you do not believe in descriptive representation, however, there is not a problem. Male judges, by this view, are just as capable of fairness and correct judgement as are women -- no matter what the subject matter of the case is.
I tend to believe that sex is major factor in whether a judge is able to properly dispense justice.
Please follow the nawj.org link for a view that disagrees with me.
Not necessarily, but possibly. Because the judicial system is a key element to democracy, having any one segment of society underrepresented is a flaw and a failing, an injustice in potential and public perception. Why should women buy into a legal system they cannot participate in outside of being an attorney or a defendant?
That being said, each courtroom is an individual place, with an individual judge, so the biases or the fairness of each judge, be they male, female, gay, straight, white, black, etc., is more determined by their individual ethical and character traits. This prevents us from making any sweeping conclusions about the effect of underrepresented groups.
I agree that just because a person is male or female does not mean that he or she will interpret the law differently. In fact, judges are not supposed to be biased by their personal backgrounds. However I do think that it adds to the image of the entire legal system as unjust. If the bench looked more like the population over which it rules, there might be more of a perception of fairness. I agree with number 4 that this includes not just women but all minorities.
I would like to think that the people that are being put on the bench are going to interpret the law as it was intended to be and not with their own biases. However I am a little surprised by the under representation of all minorities, not just women.