Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice

Committee Member

Dr. Ye Luo, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Andrew Whitehead

Committee Member

Dr. Sarah Winslow


This study uses sociological frameworks to examine the effects that judges’ personal characteristics, such as race, sex, political affiliation, and political ideology, as well as personal characteristics of the plaintiff, such as race and sex, have on cases filed in federal appellate courts dealing with sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Previous research examining these factors have produced conflicting results. This study, using data extracted from Title VII cases dealing with sex from federal appellate courts from 1995 to 2002, attempts to tease out these different effects. Results indicate that the political ideology of the circuit in which the case is heard, the political ideology of the appointing president, and the race and sex of the plaintiff have stronger impacts on the decision the judge makes in an employment discrimination case than does the sex or race of the judge. In addition, having more than one female judge on the panel increases the probability that a vote will be in the plaintiff’s favor, though having two female judges actually decreases the probability of a favorable vote for the plaintiff. The results of this study provide support for the informational perspective and the political model of judicial decision-making. Implications of the results of this study should be instructive in identifying if, to what extent, and how judges’ political biases, both subconscious and overt, are influencing their judicial decision-making processes.

Included in

Sociology Commons



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