Comparative Analysis of Women and Men Lower-Court Judges

Project: Research project

Project Details


Research on judicial careers and behavior is a relatively young specialty in social science that so far has focused mainly on trial and appellate court judges. The nation's lowest courts, district courts, have been the least studied despite their numbers and significance to ordinary citizens. The office of lower-court judge is a powerful position that is central to the functioning of the legal system. Traditionally, it has been a male semi-profession but recently a growing number of women have been entering this field. An understanding of judicial attitudes and decisionmaking in this non-traditional occupation has both theoretical and practical potential. This project involves an analysis of the occupation of the lower- court judge in terms of work demands and the enactment of and adaptation to the job. A random sample of female and male judges in both rural and urban counties in Pennsylvania will be studied. Central to the analysis will be (1) a description of the social backgrounds of job occupants and gender differences; (2) gender differences/similarities in work history and career paths leading to and away from the judge role; and (3) gender differences/similarities in judicial attitudes and orientations. Using a combination of face-to-face interviews, courtroom observations, and analysis of archival data describing caseloads and community characteristics, a theory of the minor judiciary will be built and refined. The opportunity to assess gender- based differences in work orientations and behavior in an identical job for men and women office-holders provides a unique perspective. This study will yield an extensive and rich data base on the minor judiciary. In addition, it will contribute to the sparse literature on judicial careers, gender and work, and men and women in elective offices. Applying theory and research on gender and work to the work experiences of lower-court judges will offer not only a fresh approach to theory building in the area but also a broader view of judicial careers and behavior that should add significantly to our understanding of the judiciary.

Effective start/end date6/1/902/28/93


  • National Science Foundation: $90,294.00


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