Sex and Race Bias Exist in Federal Court, Study Finds

A task force drafted to study sex and race bias in the federal courts in New York, Connecticut and Vermont has concluded its three-year study and concluded that bias does exist in the federal court system. The task force’s report found that bias occurred in many ways and during all aspects of legal proceedings. The bias included ethnic slurs, patronizing behavior and imitation of the language of people of color. The report expressed concern of “stereotyped thinking about the seriousness or the reality of sexual harassment claims.” The report cited an unnamed judge who said in open court that a plaintiff’s sexual harassment claim was not serious because, “her employer only stared at her breasts, rather than touching them, and ‘most women like that.'” The nine-member task force was composed of six women and three people of color, six judges and three lawyers. Charles Ogeletree, professor of law at Harvard Law School, hoped that the study would “serve as a wake-up call that not only are incidents of bias widely perceived by participants, but there’s enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that bias really does exist in the system.”


The New York Times, Reuters - June 11, 1997, the Feminist Majority Foundation News Archives - June 1997

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