Is Justice Really Blind? Race and Appellate Review in U.S. Courts


Sen, Maya. 2015. “Is Justice Really Blind? Race and Appellate Review in U.S. Courts.” Journal of Legal Studies 44 (S1): 187-229. Copy at
sen_reversal.pdf707 KB

Date Published:



In this paper, I use two new data sets to demonstrate that black federal judges are consistently overturned on appeal more often than similar white judges. The effect is robust and persists after taking into account previous professional and judicial experience, educational backgrounds, qualification ratings assigned by the American Bar Association, and differences in partisanship. This study is the first to explore how higher-court judges evaluate opinions written by judges of color, and it has clear implications: despite attempts to make judiciary more reflective of the general population, racial disparities within the legal system continue to persist.


Winner, 2012 Best Graduate Student Paper Prize -- American Political Science Association Law & Courts Section

Publisher's Version

Last updated on 07/08/2015