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Perceptions and Experiences of Gender Fairness in Mississippi Courts

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 87 Issue: 3 Dated: November/December 2003 Pages: 126-134
John W. Winkle III; Justin Wedeking
Date Published
November 2003
9 pages
This article discusses the perceptions and experiences of attorneys and judges regarding gender unfairness.
Often, perceptions of unfairness held by both citizens and legal professionals become critical in identifying and eliminating the source of bias. Recent surveys of attorneys and judges in Mississippi were used to determine whether their views of fairness divide along gender and positional lines and what difference, if any, it made for the legal process. It was hypothesized that male and female attorneys would hold distinctly different perceptions, based on decidedly different personal experiences, on the nature and scope of gender unfairness in Mississippi courts. It was also estimated that views of bias between attorneys and judges would vary markedly, suggesting that this perception gap is situated along positional as well as gender lines. It was also expected that older men would be less sensitive to contemporary issues of gender fairness. The findings showed that a substantial number of those surveyed believe that gender unfairness exists in the Mississippi court system, but it is limited and isolated. Also, majorities agreed that on the whole men and women receive fair treatment, though there is reported a greater measure of unfairness towards women. Finally, perceptions and experiences of fairness or unfairness differed significantly between men and women. Women, whether attorneys or judges, were consistently more aware of the core problems and far more likely than men to observe, experience, and report incidents of biased treatment. The linkage between age and perception was not found. As expected, gender matters in the perceptions of fairness in the Mississippi court system. 5 figures, 18 footnotes