November 16, 2017 Articles

Covert Motivations Raise Ethical Questions in Motions to Disqualify Women Judges

By Raymond J. McKoski

Judges have suffered attacks on their impartiality solely because they are women. For example, motions seeking to disqualify judges have alleged that a female judge should not preside over sex discrimination cases or sexual assault cases because a woman judge will automatically favor a female victim. See, e.g., Johnson v. State, 430 S.E.2d 821, 822 (Ga. Ct. App. 1993). Similarly, litigants have claimed that "motherly instincts" should preclude a woman judge from hearing a case involving child abuse. See, e.g., Allee v. Morrow, 28 P.3d 651, 652 (Or. Ct. App. 2001). Reminiscent of an argument offered against allowing women to serve as jurors, a wife in a divorce action sought disqualification of a woman judge because she would likely be improperly influenced by an attractive man like the wife's husband. Rivero v. Rivero, 216 P.3d 213, 233 (Nev. 2009). Even more reprehensible, another litigant submitted an affidavit in support of a disqualification motion alleging that the judge's bias against the affiant was the result of the judge acting like a "woman scorned." Sworn Affidavit of Bradlee Dean, Dean v. NBC Universal, No. 2011 CA 006055B (D.C. Super. Ct. July 9, 2012).

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