State and Federal Court Task Forces on Gender Bias in the Courts

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October 10, 2013

Origin of State Task Forces

The National Judicial Education Program (NJEP)'s judicial education programs inspired a series of task forces established by state chief justices and federal circuit councils to examine gender bias in their own court systems. The task forces documented discriminatory court decisions, policies, and practices and recommended reforms to eradicate these barriers to equal justice.

  • NJEP has provided technical assistance to the task forces in all phases of their work as investigating bodies, implementation committees and standing committees of the courts. Task forces in more than 40 states and seven federal circuits are now in various stages of data collection, implementing recommendations and institutionalizing reforms.

  • At its 1988 annual meeting, the Conference of Chief Justices adopted a resolution urging every Chief Justice to establish a task force "devoted to the study of gender bias in the courts." In 1999, the National Conference on Public Trust and Confidence in the Justice System, attended by teams from every state that included the chief justice, state court administrator and state bar president, voted to make implementing the recommendations of the task forces on gender, race and ethnic bias in the courts a priority.

  • The findings of the forty-one task force reports are summed up in this quotation from the Report of the New York Task Force on Women in the Courts: “The Task Force has concluded that gender bias against women litigants, attorneys and court employees is a pervasive problem with grave consequences. Women are often denied equal justice, equal treatment and equal opportunity."

  • The reports of the task forces on gender bias in the courts have now been cited in more than one hundred state and federal judicial opinions in cases ranging from divorce to rape to murder. These include cases reversing judicial decisions because of overt gender-bias and sanctioning attorneys for gender biased conduct.

Task Force Educational Materials

NJEP developed several publications describing how to establish and operate a gender bias task force, implement its recommendations, and evaluate its impact.

  • Fairness in the Courts
  • National Judicial Education Program

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