As humans, we all fall victim to implicit bias. Our life experiences affect our beliefs, and those beliefs often play into our decision-making, whether we are aware of them or not.
Unfortunately, these unconscious biases can become increasingly problematic, especially when they begin to dictate our deliberate choices and reasonings. Luckily though, implicit bias does not have to dictate how we lead our lives. They can be addressed, and the Illinois judiciary is doing just that.
Earlier this month, the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Equality reported their efforts to improve implicit bias in Illinois courts. In fact, this time last year, the Committee began surveying Illinois judges to get a better understanding of their decision-making processes.
The confidential questionnaire developed by the American Bar Foundation with support from researchers Dr. Andrea Miller and Dr. Robert Nelson used hypothetical court cases in different areas of the law to gauge each participant’s rational for decision-making. The survey also examined the considerations that influence the outcomes of those decisions, including race, gender, poverty, and legal representation in criminal, civil and family law cases.
The results of the survey are not public at this time. According to the Court press release, at a later date, the Committee on Equality will solicit feedback on the results. In the meantime, we can expect to see a more ongoing judicial education around the state that incorporates tactics and procedures to curb implicit bias in judicial decision-making.
Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier believes this study of the Illinois judiciary will improve public confidence in the legal system.
“This ground-breaking study provides critical insights into these issues. Recognizing that implicit biases influence everyday life decisions by the general population, the study helps us see our own. The conclusions it reaches will be invaluable in guiding the Court’s continued efforts to improve public confidence in the judicial branch and insure that everyone who seeks the protections of our judicial system will receive equal justice under the law without regard to race, gender, economic status, or ability to retain counsel.”
Implicit biases cannot be completely eradicated, but they can be mitigated. As officers of the Court, the judiciary and all legal professionals bear the responsibility to improve their deliberate decision-making. Let the implicit bias education commence.