Researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas have found that male judges tend to be more chivalrous lenient towards female litigants than female judges.
The researchers studied about 100 immigration cases and found evidence of the long-suspected chivalry theory, in which male judges view female litigants as ‘damsels in distress who need their protection’ and are more generous with them as a result, whereas female judges do not.
Researchers also found evidence of masculinity theory in the immigration cases, where men taught not to appear vulnerable or emotional were harsher on men pleading residency.
Women fared significantly better in such cases before front of an all-male panel of judges, while men fared better before a mixed panel.
“While all-male panels are more favourable to female litigants and less so to male litigants, adding female judges to the panel seems to reverse this effect without achieving equality,” the research said.
“That there is a significant difference between the grant rates presents a new problem, which is anchoring the relative advantages and disadvantages of litigants to a single measure of what those rates ought to be.”
While the results suggest that perhaps male panels are too lenient on women and too hard on men, and that mixed panels are too lenient on men and too hard on women, the lack of equality in either scenario is apparent. Researches said that they aim not to treat the all men example as the norm, as much previous research on the subject has done.
“Our results suggest that the impact of gender on judging is highly dynamic,” the study concluded.