Does the Sex of your Judge Matter?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Monday, May 18, 2015.

I am frequently asked by divorce clients whether the sex of the judge, or the mediator or the other side’s divorce lawyer matters. The question is one of gender bias. Gender bias exists throughout society, so why not in the courtroom?

Sex and the Judge

I’ve written about courtroom tips before. If you ever go to court, you will find that the ratio of judges in the Miami-Dade County family division tends to be about a 50/50 split between male and female judges.

Do judges care whether the lawyers and clients who appear before them are male or female? The question really asks are judges biased. The answer is yes . . . to a certain extent. But who isn’t?

Some female judges have a reputation of being pro-female, other female judges have a reputation of being pro-male. The reverse is also true. Some male judges have a reputation of being pro-male, while others are known to be pro-female. It all depends on the personality, upbringing, and personal experiences of your judge.

In examining a judge’s decision which you suspect is gender biased, ask yourself if the result would be the same if the genders of the parties were reversed?

Sex and the Client

All clients make assumptions about the lawyers they hire. Some clients assume that men will be more aggressive and women may be softer in general, and that this preconceived assumption translates to lawyers and judges. From my experience, that is not always true.

I know many female lawyers who are overly aggressive and way too eager to go to court on a matter. I also know many male lawyers who are calm, and looking to resolve disputes not create them. I know of female judges that wouldn’t give you the time of day, and others that would work through the night to resolve a custody case. The difference between the types of attorneys is personality not gender.

Sex and the Lawyer

For me, the gender of the opposing attorney or judges or mediators makes little difference. Some male lawyers are no better, no tougher, or no more difficult to get along with than some female lawyers, judges or mediators.

But, even though the sex of a lawyer, judge or mediator is not very important to me, other qualities about a lawyer are.

Dealing with Gender Bias

Bias affects us all. This is true in the courtroom, the classroom, as well as your bedroom. We all make snap judgments about people based on stereotypes or experiences. It is instinctual to make judgments in this way.

The Florida Supreme Court has authorized a few studies on gender bias in the courtroom. It found that gender bias – discrimination based solely on one’s sex – is a reality. An understanding of how bias operates can help us identify and expose that bias in the courtroom.

The report of the Florida Supreme Court gender bias study is available here.