What is a Prejudice?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

In the legal system, the concept of “prejudice” comes up in a number of contexts. Many familiar with this word in the sense of making a judgment about something without having all the facts, as seen in situations where discrimination occurs, and this sense can be seen in the legal community, where a prejudice in a case can result in having the outcome nullified. Additionally, this term comes up in the context of legal dismissals of cases, determining whether the case can be brought back to court again.

Misogyny is used to refer to any case in which women face discrimination or prejudice.
Misogyny is used to refer to any case in which women face discrimination or prejudice.

A prejudice is a condition in a case that causes injury or loss. One or both sides can challenge the case, arguing that the outcome was unduly influenced and requesting a new trial. If people can demonstrate that their case in court was harmed by the presence of prejudice, they can receive a new trial. This is costly and undesirable, and courts attempt to avoid it with steps like asking judges to recuse themselves if they have a personal interest in a case.

The court system may hear legal cases based on prejudice and discrimination.
The court system may hear legal cases based on prejudice and discrimination.

In another context, is it possible to see a case dismissed with or without prejudice. Cases dismissed with prejudice are considered final. The judge has weighed the information, reached a decision, and the case cannot be brought back to court. For example, if a person files a malpractice suit and settles, the case is dismissed and cannot be brought back to court if the person wants to file for more money or a different award.

The way local media covers a trial can create prejudice.
The way local media covers a trial can create prejudice.

Cases dismissed without prejudice can be brought back to court. A final ruling has not been reached, and the court can hear the case again. This often happens when people file suits in error and ask to have the case dismissed so they can file the paperwork properly, or when there are problems with the case that prevent it from being heard. Rather than making it impossible for the person to obtain justice through the court system, the judge can dismiss the case but leave the matter open for the future.

The court system can also see legal cases based on prejudice and discrimination. If a person can show that another person's prejudgment or beliefs caused harm, as for example when a black man is refused employment by someone who thinks he is a theft risk because of his skin color, that person can bring a discrimination suit to court. The law explicitly forbids discrimination, creating a number of protected classes, including people with disabilities, older adults, and people of various races.

A dismissal with prejudice may occur as a result of a flawed presentation of evidence.
A dismissal with prejudice may occur as a result of a flawed presentation of evidence.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

dill1971

@alex94- To define prejudice, it means a bias, or to favor something because of your feelings or a personal opinion. Our society is full of prejudice people. Everywhere you look, people are stereotyped, and we look at them as being unacceptable or different. That is prejudice.

An example that I have seen used before is this: If we are walking through a park at night and see three elderly people walking together with their walkers or walking sticks, we do not feel threatened. However, if we are walking through the park and see three male teenagers in leather jackets with bandanas tied around their head, we might have an eerie feeling. Without even realizing it, we have formed a prejudice.

alex94

This was a great article on the legal sense of prejudices. I am taking a statistics class and have to do a report on prejudices and racism in our country. I need to learn more about prejudices within our society, not just in the courts. Can anyone provide any information on that, or even just a very concise definition of prejudice for me? Thanks!

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