Research Handbook on Law and Courts
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Research Handbook on Law and Courts

Edited by Susan M. Sterett and Lee D. Walker

The Research Handbook on Law and Courts provides a systematic analysis of new work on courts as governing institutions. Authors consider how courts have taken on regulating fundamental categories of inclusion and exclusion, including citizenship rights. Courts’ centrality to governance is addressed in sections on judicial processes, sub-national courts, and political accountability, all analyzed in multiple legal/political systems. Other chapters turn to analyzing the worldwide push for diversity in staffing courts. Finally, the digitization of records changes both court processes and studying courts. Authors included in the Handbook discuss theoretical, empirical and methodological approaches to studying courts as governing institutions. They also identify promising areas of future research.
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Chapter 16: Judicial diversity in the United States federal judiciary

Taneisha N. Means, Andrew Eslich and Kaitlin Prado

Abstract

This chapter examines the importance of diversity and representation in the judicial branch in terms of both race and gender. This piece operates on the belief that judicial institutions aspire to be representative bodies and thus who sits on the bench largely influences policymaking and social change. By focusing on the intersection of race and gender, this chapter seeks to better understand intragroup difference and the position of these groups, particularly for women of color. The authors make the case that judicial biographies and opinions are key documents in understanding judicial behavior as one’s life experience shapes their worldview and their decisions. In taking seriously the relevance of such documents, this chapter undertakes a close reading of the written opinions in the US Supreme Court case Utah v. Strieff (2016). Through a close reading, the authors note the differences between US Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas to gain more insight on how both race and gender shape their thinking. In understanding and unmasking these differences, the chapter emphasizes the importance of comprehending the position of judges based on their identity, specifically race and gender, in order to understand the impact that identity has within the judicial branch.

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