Politics & Gender

Gender and Judging

Judging Alone: Reflections on the Importance of Women on the Court

Karen O'Connora1 and Alixandra B. Yanusa2

a1 American University

a2 High Point University

“The word I would use to describe my position on the bench is lonely.” So said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2007, when asked to comment on her position on the U.S. Supreme Court after the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. After a year as the Court's only woman, Ginsburg had begun to feel the solitude that comes from judging alone, being the Court's only descriptive and often symbolic representative of women's interests. Ginsburg's position was not, sadly, as rare as we might hope in industrialized democracies. Although some countries, such as Canada, have had near majorities of women on their respective high courts, other countries, such as the United Kingdom, continue to have only one woman on their national tribunals.

Karen O'Connor is the Jonathan N. Helfat Distinguished Professor of Political Science and the Founder and Director Emerita of the Women & Politics Institute at American University. She has written extensively about women and the law, women and politics, and American politics, including the best-selling American Government text, American Government: Roots and Reform, 10thed. (with Larry Sabato). She is the past president of the Women's Caucus for Political Science, the Organized Research Section on Women and Politics Research, and the Southern Political Science Association. She was the editor of Women & Politics for two terms.

Alixandra B. Yanus is Assistant Professor at High Point University. She is co-author of Essentials of American Government: Roots and Reform (with Karen O'Connor and Larry J. Sabato). She has published book chapters and scholarly articles in journals such as Justice System Journal. Her research interests are in American politics, courts, interest groups, and women and politics. She is currently researching the judiciary's interactions with the media and interest groups.