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2021 What Judges Can Do about Implicit Bias


“Implicit bias” was not well known in legal communities twenty years ago. But now, the idea of implicit bias circulates widely in both popular and academic discussions.  Even the casually interested judge knows a great deal about the topic. Still, even as the problem of implicit bias has grown familiar, potential solutions remain out of focus. Specifically, what can judges do about implicit bias, in their capacities as managers of a workplace as well as vessels of state power?

In 2009, I wrote a Primer for the National Center for State courts, which described the challenge of implicit bias to judicial audiences. In 2012, I was the lead author of a more systematic examination titled Implicit Bias in the Courtroom. The goal of this article, nearly a decade later, is to update the scientific understanding since 2012. It also revises, reorganizes, and streamlines recommendations for judges who believe that implicit bias is a genuine problem but don’t know what to do about it.

The paper has an Appendix, which will be turned into a bench card. Here’s a draft of the graphic (click to get better view).