One judge’s warning against bias

The College’s Question of the Month for June 2018 asked judges if they give special instructions to jurors to guard against unconscious bias. Most do not, according to the poll. One anonymous respondent shared the instructions he issues:

“In this courtroom, everyone is entitled to a level playing field.  This means that you must regard this case as a lawsuit between parties of equal standing in the community.  You should not be influenced by who the parties are, or who the witnesses are, that is, whether they are rich or poor, young or old, well-educated or not. [You should not be influenced by the fact that the plaintiff is a person and the defendant is a corporation.] And you should be aware of the natural human tendency to look at others, and to filter what they have to say, through the lens of our own personal experience and background. Because we all do this, we often see life – and evaluate evidence – in a way that tends to favor people who are like ourselves or who have had life experiences like our own. In deciding this case, I urge you to be aware of this natural human tendency to stereotype other people and to make assumptions about them based on the stereotypes, and I urge you to avoid such stereotyping.”

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