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Judges Consider Their Own Implicit Bias

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August 19, 2016

At a recent gathering, state and federal judges from around the country were encouraged to consider their own personal implicit biases, and how they may impact their work. “We view our job functions through the lens of our experiences, and all of us are impacted by biases and stereotypes and other cognitive functions that enable us to take shortcuts in what we do,” said Sixth Circuit Appeals Court judge Bernice B. Donald. She joined others at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting on a panel titled “Implicit Bias and De-Biasing Strategies: A Workshop for Judges and Lawyers.” Information from various studies was shared, which have shown that darker skin leads to longer prison sentences, and that prospective jurors tended to remember more aggressive details about a hypothetical defendant when he was named “Tyrone” as opposed to “William.” One test for measuring such biases that has been taken by thousands showed 80 percent of of white test-takers and 40 percent of black test-takers showed a pro-white bias, said Johanna Wald, director of strategic planning for the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School.

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