Lawyer Survey Shows Differing Perceptions of Bias in NJ Courts

Do New Jersey courts treat lawyers the same, whether they are black or white, male or female?

The answer differs based on the group answering that question, according to a fall 2007 survey of 851 lawyers and judges by the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee of Women in the Courts.

The New Jersey Law Journal covered the findings. They include:

• Eighty percent of the male respondents said lawyers are treated the same, regardless of race or gender, compared to 43 percent of the women, 66 percent of the whites and 27 percent of the minorities. Overall, 54 percent agreed all are treated the same.

• Only 4 percent of men thought white males receive better treatment, compared to 30 percent of women, 16 percent of whites, and 28 percent of minorities. Overall, 21 percent thought white males get better treatment.

• Sixty-eight percent of males had not seen a judge demean or unfairly criticize a lawyer in the past two years, compared to 59 percent of women, 73 percent of whites and 59 percent of minorities. Overall, 58 percent had not seen such behavior in a judge.

Some of the respondents included anecdotes, according to the New Jersey Law Journal story. Some of the reported bias was subtle. It included women lawyers being addressed as “ma’am” while male lawyers were addressed as “counselor.” One female lawyer recalls the time she had trouble finding a document at trial. The judge told her she “should have gone to secretarial school.”

The committee said the survey shows the need for court personnel to take training for bias awareness. The courts can identify areas of concern with input from minority bar associations, the report said.

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