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Abstract

As women take on a continuously larger role in the legal field, it has become tremendously important to study and understand the impact women are having on the judicial system. This work explores the role of women in the judiciary. Specifically, I examine the Supreme Court of the United States to find out whether women’s jurisprudence differs from that of their male colleagues. For this paper, I limit my examination to cases involving equal protection under the law. The theory I employ is that of Carol Gilligan, who argues that across many realms, women have a uniquely different voice than men (1982). Through a quantitative analysis of 49 cases dealing with issues of equal protection under the law, I show that Gilligan’s theory helps us understand how cases are decided in the United States Supreme Court. Additionally, I show how the “Different Voice” model improves upon existing models of judicial decision making by Lee Epstein, Jeffrey Segal, and Harold Spaeth. This paper expands current gender and politics literature, which had previously used Gilligan’s insights to examine U.S. state legislatures, by analyzing decision making in the Supreme Court. This paper thus illustrates that women, due to their unique life experiences, have a different understanding of the law in regards to equality and equal protection under the law.

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