Broadening Diversity on the Bench: Voting Behavior and Panel Effects on the United States Courts of Appeals

Hu, Diane

This Note seeks to determine the extent to which personal characteristics of judges—namely gender, race, and prior prosecutorial experience—affect individual judicial votes and panel decisions on the United States Courts of Appeals. Although these characteristics do not have a significant effect on the way an individual judge votes, this Note finds that the presence of one of these characteristics on a three-judge panel can influence how the other two judges vote, affecting the overall outcome. The presence of at least one female or black judge on a panel increases the likelihood of a more liberal decision across all cases. However, this effect disappears in cases that are specifically related to gender or race issues, such as employment discrimination cases. The presence of a prior prosecutor on a panel in criminal cases decreases the likelihood of a more liberal ruling (in favor of the defendant). These results shed light on the dynamics of panel decision making, and allow us to critically examine the federal judicial appointment process and the pursuit of judicial diversity.

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Columbia Journal of Race and Law

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November 12, 2018