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Three years after a survey of practitioners showed that overt bias against women had been largely purged from New Jersey’s state court system, a state supreme court committee is searching for anecdotal evidence that it persists. In a questionnaire, the Committee on Women in the Courts asks lawyers to come forth with stories about different treatment of women on account of gender. “[P]lease describe each instance you faced or observed where demeaning, demoralizing or other inappropriate biased conduct was exhibited by counsel, Court personnel or judges,” the survey says. Respondents are also asked what action they took or the reason they took none. Why another survey so soon? “I just think, sometimes in any effort, you need to take a pulse,” says the committee member in charge of the survey, Superior Court Judge Marie Lihotz of Burlington County. “The question is: where are we now?” But Lihotz stresses the limited purpose of the query. “This isn’t an investigation of incidents of bias,” she says. “The objective of the survey is to formulate a basis for educational programs and materials. In that regard, we’re trying to obtain perceptions and illustrations.” The last survey “didn’t lend itself to a lot of detail,” adds Marilyn Slivka, the Administrative Office of the Courts’ staff liaison to the committee. To encourage candor, respondents are given the option of anonymity and are told, “feel free to change the names of participants if this will make you comfortable.” However, the survey does request respondents’ names for verification, and Lihotz says her five-member survey subcommittee “will make a determination as far as what we use and what we won’t.” Asked whether anonymous responses might encourage respondents to fabricate or exaggerate, Slivka said, “I think we have to trust them.” “It’s not meant to be a scientific, statistical analysis of what’s going on,” says another subcommittee member, Charles Stoia, a partner at Porzio, Bromberg & Newman in Morristown, N.J. “It really is just what it purports to be, to get some additional information that will assist us in putting some educational materials together. For the purposes of what we are using the information for, I don’t think that [fabrication] is a concern.” In fact, Stoia says a previous video that the group made about gender discrimination, which has been shown hundreds of times to judicial employees and bar groups, “purposely exaggerated the situation” in vignettes depicting gender bias among lawyers in order to facilitate discussion. For example, in one such scene, a senior partner asks a female associate to get coffee for a meeting. The two prior surveys about gender bias in the courts were far more sweeping in scope. The first, conducted in 1983, was the first of its kind in the nation, and it concluded that gender bias was rampant in the court system. The 1983 survey results led the court to adopt strictures against discrimination on the basis of gender, whether by lawyers — (Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(g) — or by judges — (Canon 3A(4) of the Code of Judicial Ethics). The most recent survey, in 1998, showed that incidents of overt bias, such as disrespectful forms of address toward women, comments about appearance or sexist jokes, were down from the study completed 15 years earlier. Of the 598 responses to the survey, sent out in 1996, 59.8 percent of the male respondents and 53.3 percent of the female respondents said gender bias still existed in the court system, but that it was limited to a few areas or individuals. But the 1998 study also found that many women retained a perception of gender bias. About 31 percent of the women responding said gender bias was widespread, but subtle and hard to detect. Among the other results of the 1998 survey: � Sixty-one percent of women respondents said female lawyers were treated less favorably than male lawyers by male lawyers; 52 percent said female lawyers were treated less favorably than male lawyers by judges; and 34 percent said they were treated less favorably than men by court personnel. � Sixty-five percent of women responding said opposing counsel addressed them by first names or terms of endearment; 51 percent said they were addressed that way by court personnel’ and 43 percent said judges addressed them that way on one or more occasion. � Thirty-nine percent of women responding said they had been subjected to physical or verbal sexual advances by other counsel on one or more occasions; 19 percent said they had been subjected to such advances by court personnel; and 13 percent said they had been subjected to such behavior by judges. � Sixty-nine percent of the women said other counsel made sexually oriented jokes or remarks on one or more occasions, while 53 percent said judges did so. Thirty-seven percent of women said court personnel made such statements. The 28-member committee includes judges, attorneys, academics and AOC staff. Its members are appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court, with input from various bar groups. The educational materials it produces are presented to judges at the annual Judicial College and to lawyers at bar meetings. The Aug. 30 deadline for submissions will be extended a month because many people go on vacation in August, and the committee hopes the results of its survey will be incorporated into presentations at the Judicial College in November, says Lihotz.

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