Dateline: December, 2006, Issue 2

How do judges' personal characteristics affect sexual harassment case outcomes?

A recent study by Kulik et al. (2003) explored the effects of judges' personal characteristics (gender, race, age, and political affiliation) and case characteristics on the outcomes of federal cases of hostile environment sexual harassment. Results revealed that even after controlling for the effects of relevant case characteristics (e.g., severity of the harassment), judges' personal characteristics influenced case outcomes.

Younger judges and Democrat judges were more likely to find for the plaintiff (the alleged victim of harassment). The probability that the decision would favor the plaintiff was only 16% when the case was heard by an older judge but 45% when heard by a younger judge. The probability that the decision would favor the plaintiff was only 18% when the case was heard by a judge who had been appointed by a Republican president but 46% when the judge had been appointed by a Democrat president.

Source Kulik, C. T., Perry, E. L., & Pepper, M. B. (2003). Here comes the judge: The influence of judge personal characteristics on federal sexual harassment case outcomes. Law and Human Behavior, 27, pp. 53-68.