ethnically diverse neighborhoods.

In closing, the presenters pointed out some areas overlooked by the judiciary in addressing DMC. These included data collection and causal studies; cultural competency of court personnel; legislative involvement in the issue; and listening conferences involving minority youth affected by DMC trends and decisions.

Are We Making Culturally Competent Decisions?

Judges Louis Frank Domingues and Roxanne Song Ong of the Phoenix Municipal Court presented this session, which described bias and its impact on the court. The session also made a comparative examination of Anglo-, Hispanic-, African-, and Asian-American culture.

Background

Biased behavior in the courtroom - a deviation from the norm, a settled or prejudiced outlook - can influence the course of justice. Bias in the courts is well documented. Case outcomes are affected.

Many people, including men, but in particular non-whites and women, feel the

cleardot.gif (886 bytes) effect of bias. Bias in the courtroom affects both defendants and professionals. For minorities, bias causes disparate treatment; sets lesser values on their rights and lives. For women, bias fixes the role of the sexes; devalues women and women's work; perpetuates myths and misconceptions about women's social and economic realities.

Some instances of bias in the courtroom are active. They result in judicial actions that influence behavior and perceptions. Name-calling and remarks, judicial decisions, and administrative behavior sometimes reflect this active type.

Other instances of bias are passive; when bias is permitted to continue unchecked and without reprimand, or when attention is allowed to shy away from priority issues to biased ones. This type of bias usually exerts subtler but nonetheless critical pressure. Either type of bias hinders the effective functioning of the legal and judicial system. It has profound effects in the courtroom. It undermines credibility and weakens the positions of attorneys, witnesses, plaintiffs, and defendants. Bias decreases confidence in attorneys and witnesses, and undercuts

cleardot.gif (886 bytes) the professionalism of judges, attorneys, and court staff. It restricts the value of facts and evidence (both prosecution and defense); emphasizes artificial weaknesses rather than natural strengths.

Several studies in Washington State, California, and elsewhere across the country clearly document disparity in the way different people are treated within the judicial system based on gender, race, and ethnic or cultural heritage. Further the perception of disparate treatment varies between different groups in our diverse society.

Gender bias exists when decisions are made or actions are taken based on preconceived notions about the nature, roles, and abilities of men and women rather than upon evaluation of each individual situation. Gender bias also is evident in society's perception of the value of women’s and men’s work, and the myths and misconceptions about the social and economic realities of women's and men's lives. Gender bias can be reflected in individual actions as well as in cultural traditions and institutional practices.

Examples of gender bias in the courts include the

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