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Briefcase: Courts and Implicit Bias

Guest: Judge Vanessa Gilmore



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As officers of the court, judges are called to put aside personal feelings and make legal decisions based on the law. Judge Vanessa Gilmore presides over the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and answered whether the background or experience of the parties before the court can affect its decision.

"It shouldn't," Judge Gilmore said. "Judges must guard against implicit bias. We should consciously reject stereotypes, attitudes, and preferences, and we must prevent implicit bias from affecting how we apply the law. And we must keep implicit bias from finding expression in our courtrooms."

Judge Gilmore explained what citizens can do if they believe judges are biased.

"Don't just let it go," she said. "Problems around implicit bias won’t get better unless people speak up. Judges are more mindful of this issue now and even have workshops dealing with implicit bias."

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