Monday, July 30, 2007

New Study on Impact of Judges' Gender and Political Affiliation

Law Times has published an article outlining the conclusions of a study of the impact of gender and political affiliation on judicial decision-making in Ontario.

Entitled Does a Judge's Party of Appointment or Gender Matter to Case Outcomes? An Empirical Study of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, the study by Osgoode Hall Law School associate professor James Stribopoulos and University of Alberta associate law professor Moin Yahya examined all reported decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal from 1991 to 2003 — over 4,000 judgments.

According to Law Times:

"(N)ot only was there a difference in the way judges voted depending on their political-party appointment, but also that there was a 'notable variation' in the way that male and female judges voted in certain cases (...) For example, the study notes that one area where a panel’s political composition seems to matter is in criminal cases involving Charter claims seeking either to exclude evidence or invalidate legislation".
Interestingly, the researchers found that in trials where Charter arguments were tossed out and the accused found guilty, Conservative-appointed judges were more lenient than judges appointed by the Liberals. There were also marked differences depending on the gender of the judge in family law cases and in criminal appeals involving sexual or domestic violence.

Yahya told Law Times that it is important not to exaggerate the differences:

"Even where there is a bit of a difference, they’re still affirming the conviction. It’s just, are they affirming it 60 per cent of the time versus 70 per cent of the time? It’s a 10-per-cent difference".
Overall, the authors stress the importance of promoting diversity in appeal court panels, as diversity was shown to eliminate any potential "distorting influence" based on gender or party.

The article, to be published in the upcoming issue of the Osgoode Hall Law Journal, won the 2007 Canadian Association of Law Teachers Scholarly Paper Award.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:40 pm

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