WLD Gender Bias Subcommittee sponsors program for local judges By Bernie Puzzuole On April 14, 2008, the Gender Bias Subcommittee of the Women in the Law Division of the Allegheny County Bar Association presented a one-hour lunch 'n learn program for the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas and Magisterial District Judges of the Allegheny County Courts on the topic "Gender Bias in the Courtroom-Avoiding Personal Liability." The program was attended by 17 members of the Court of Common Pleas, including President Judge Joseph M. James, and 12 Magisterial District Judges. Lunch was provided by the WLD. The program presenters, James W. Carroll and Kimberly A. Brown, advised the attendees of situations in which they could be subject to personal liability for court related action or inaction involving gender bias, or be found in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, Code of Civility, and Code of Judicial Conduct. A slide show detailed several hypothetical situations in which gender bias was present in court-related settings, and the presenters suggested some responses that the judges should avoid, and other responses that would make those situations gender neutral. The judges were advised that since they were in control of their courtrooms, they were in the best position to ensure that it was gender neutral. Among the facts related to the Court was that 40 percent of the female attorneys responding to the most recent gender bias survey done by the ACBA believed that discriminatory conduct did or sometimes did affect the outcome of a case. That level of response indicates that there is a perception of gender bias in the Allegheny County Courts with many members of the ACBA, and that perception, whether accurate or not, benefits neither the bench nor the bar. n