This Judge Changed His Mind Because of His Daughter

Judges can change minds and decisions if they are dads of daughters.


Anecdotal evidence has long suggested little girls have their daddies wrapped around their pinkies. Little boys, on the other hand, have tried much harder to move daddy’s heart and watched enviously when their baby sister managed it with her first blink.

"But that’s just your regular, sentimental dads," you say? Well, you’d be wrong. We’re talking judges here - Supreme Court conservative judge, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to be precise. It doesn’t get any more irregular than that!

In 2003, Chief Justice Rehnquist issued a blistering opinion deploring "stereotypes about women’s domestic roles." It was, to say the least, unexpected from a man described as a "rock-ribbed conservative."

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, another Supreme Court justice (and the only woman on the bench for a time) was "delighted." She ascribed his empathetic decision in part to his daughter: a recently divorced, working mother of two. He often left work early to pick up his granddaughters from school. 

Judges have been known to change more than just their opinion, in some cases their perspective on life. From affirmative action and gay rights to family law and the death penalty – judges have passed judgment contrary to expectation and in some cases, to regret decisions they made at a time when life was less experienced or "enlightened." 

A recent study confirms that judges with daughters "are more likely to vote in favor of women’s rights than ones with only sons," according to The New York Times. What’s more, the effect is even more pronounced when the judge is a Republican.

Historically, it has been agreed that judicial decisions are determined by the law and the judges’ ideology. Now there is evidence that a third factor matters: personal experiences. I am tempted to say "duh!"

“Having daughters can actually fundamentally change how people view the world, and this, in turn, affects how they decide cases … having at least one daughter corresponds to a 7 percent increase in the proportion of cases in which a judge will vote in a feminist direction.” Please note, additional daughters are irrelevant and the effect is more pronounced if the son or daughter is an only child – yielding a 16 percent increase in "feminist decisions."

The New York Times reports: many moons ago, Chief Justice Rehnquist was asked if during his decades on the U.S. Supreme Court, his views on major legal subjects had “evolved.” “Oh, you mean have I shown a capacity for growth?” retorted the chief justice.

Judges are human beings, too. Their decision informed by their childhoods, education, networks, travel - the list is endless.

How, I wonder, would the results of this study change if the results were controlled for whether the judges had siblings (brothers or sisters?) or not?

Evolution? Growth? Personal experiences? Life?

Meanwhile do read: Genius – All Male Panel at Women’s Global Summit

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