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April 30, 2009

"Does Unconscious Racial Bias Affect Trial Judges?"

The title of this post is the title of this piece appearing on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Race matters in the criminal justice system.  Black defendants appear to fare worse than similarly situated white defendants.  Why?  Implicit bias is one possibility.  Researchers, using a well-known measure called the implicit association test, have found that most white Americans harbor implicit bias toward Black Americans.  Do judges, who are professionally committed to egalitarian norms, hold these same implicit biases?  And if so, do these biases account for racially disparate outcomes in the criminal justice system?

We explored these two research questions in a multi-part study involving a large sample of trial judges drawn from around the country. Our results — which are both discouraging and encouraging — raise profound issues for courts and society.  We find that judges harbor the same kinds of implicit biases as others; that these biases can influence their judgment; but that given sufficient motivation, judges can compensate for the influence of these biases.

April 30, 2009 at 10:05 PM | Permalink


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Of course judges' IATs produce the same results as are seen from your everyday, average individuals. Just because judges hold law degrees and sit on benches, that does not make them super-humans immune to unconscious racial prejudice or biases. Given the findings from that study, it is a logical extension to argue that racial attitudes could indeed influence judges' decisions. If one accepts this proposition, it follows that an African American (or other minority) defendant is going to be "judged" more harshly, or at least differently (if only unconsciously) than his white counterparts. Now that implicit bias scholarship seems to be receiving more acceptance as a legitimate theory, it will be interesting to see if offenders start to argue on appeal that such implicit biases interfered with their trial and/or sentencing. And it will be even more interesting to see how appellate courts respond.

Posted by: Tiffany | May 1, 2009 1:31:13 AM

The black crime victim merits less protection, according to the entire system. The police shows up 3 hours late. No one prosecutes. Sentences are lighter.

On the other hand, the black criminal is greatly valued by the rent seeking lawyer. No one may even verbally criticize hm without facing disciplinary investigation. He is a source of rent seeking lawyer jobs, and any discouragement of criminality is racism. And black bastardy, the main cause of excessive black criminality rates is sacrosanct to the rent seeking lawyer. Try suggesting a little birth control for a 14 year old living the full time Roman Orgy lifestyle. You lose your job.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 1, 2009 8:48:55 AM


Posted by: lawdoc | May 4, 2009 10:24:48 AM

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