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Female Judges for Female Muslim Litigants?

Some commenters on the veils in court thread asked what I thought about the veiled Muslim woman's suggestion that the case be tried in from of a woman judge. I'm pretty sure that this won't work as a general matter: In many cases, witnesses have to testify before juries, and there are obvious problems with insisting on all-woman juries as well as woman judges. But even if this proposal is limited to trials before judges, it still won't work.

First, the litigants and lawyers also generally have a right (at least setting aside cases where the witness's life may be in danger) to see the witness's demeanor; and often the litigants and lawyers will be men. And, second, I think the court system has an independent and sufficiently strong interest in treating all judges (and jurors) equally without regard to sex. I realize that some sex-based accommodations are justified under exceptions to antidiscrimination rules, for instance when a woman guard or police officer is used to do pat-down searches and especially body cavity searches of women, and a male guard or officer is used for searches of men. But it seems to me that imposing similar sex classifications for the judges -- who actually preside over cases, and who in nonjury trials decide the facts -- would pose more serious (albeit chiefly symbolic) problems for the legal system, problems that the system can and should resist acquiring.

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