Last week in this space, I wrote that as President Obama ponders his choice to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, few women could be more female-sensitive than Justice Souter himself when it comes to traditional women's rights issues such as abortion rights and pay discrimination.
New research released over the weekend by the Washington Post on the voting differences between male and female judges confirms there are differences between how the two rule on cases, especially when it comes to pay discrimination:
In research that we conducted with our colleague Andrew D. Martin, we studied the votes of federal court of appeals judges in many areas of the law, from environmental cases to capital punishment and sex discrimination. For the most part, we found no difference in the voting patterns of male and female judges, except when it comes to sex discrimination cases. There, we found that female judges are approximately 10 percent more likely to rule in favor of the party bringing the discrimination claim. We also found that the presence of a female judge causes male judges to vote differently. When male and female judges serve together to decide a sex discrimination case, the male judges are nearly 15 percent more likely to rule in favor of the party alleging discrimination than when they sit with male judges only.
To "get it" means a judge or politician can empathize with the perspective of someone from a different background and discern how that person would reason in a case affecting his or her rights. Justice Souter clearly gets it when it comes to empathizing with persons of different backgrounds and so, presumably, does President Obama.
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By Bonnie Erbe