Trading Diversity? Judicial Diversity and Case Outcomes in Federal Courts

Joint with Ryan Copus and Paige Pellaton.

Accepted at American Political Science Review.

American Political Science Review.

Are federal lawsuits resolved differently based on the race or gender of the judges assigned to hear them? Recent empirical research posits that women and judges of color decide cases more liberally, at least in some identity-salient areas of law. However, these studies analyze small numbers of cases and judges, and use research designs that limit their causal interpretations. Using an original dataset of all civil rights cases filed in 20 federal district courts over multiple decades and a strong causal identification strategy, we find that assignment of cases to judges of color or women has no statistically significant effect on case outcomes among Democratic appointees. However, it causes more conservative outcomes among Republican appointees. We explain these results with a theory of bargaining over judicial appointments in which Republican presidents take advantage of Democrats’ preference for diversity on the bench to appoint more conservative judges.

Selected Presentations: UC Berkeley, MPSA 2022, University of Chicago


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