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New York's Efforts to Assess Bias Against Women in the Courts

NCJ Number
Date Published
101 pages
This document discusses an investigation into whether women’s role in the New York court system is fair.
Multiple tools were used in the two-year study of New York courts. They include a research and literature review, public hearings, regional meetings with judges and attorneys, inquiry into the judicial nominating process, and an analysis of the status of women employed in the court system. A survey canvassing attorneys about their perceptions of bias in courts was also conducted. The survey results show that respondents believe that women raising children alone and women litigating divorces are treated more fairly than they were 15 years ago. Still there are persisting disadvantages, particularly financial, for women, often as a function of their roles within families. Respondents praised the Child Support Standards Act as helping custodial parents obtain fair levels of support and greatly assisting women. Respondents noted that women whose marriages end are still vulnerable financially and pointed to the lower post-divorce standard of living for women. The cost of a divorce is an obstacle for women. Respondents felt that custody determinations were more neutral and that men and women now start on an equal footing. Respondents felt that there is greater sensitivity on the part of judges, law enforcement personnel, and the society to women that are victims of either sexual assault or domestic violence. There has been a change in the skeptical and punishing attitudes toward rape victims. Respondents applauded the changes at all levels of the justice system in dealing with domestic violence but also acknowledged the persistence of damaging attitudes and practices that they believe place the lives of women in jeopardy, such as diverting attention away from the behavior of the abuser to the abused woman’s behavior. Respondents were split along gender lines over the extent to which women are treated differently and less respectfully, with men believing that women are never treated differently from men. Respondents acknowledged the dramatic increase in women in the law profession but remarked on the unevenness of women’s achievements. 206 endnotes, 2 appendixes