The Conscientious Justice: How Supreme Court Justices’ Personalities Influence the Law, the High Court, and the Constitution, Ryan Black, Ryan J. Owens, Justin Wedeking and Patrick C. Wohlfarth
Legal realists argue that considerations such as ideology and external politics influence U.S. Supreme Court justices, though the degree to which these extralegal elements play a role in decision-making is sure to vary by justice. This motivates Ryan Black, Ryan J. Owens, Justin Wedeking, and Patrick C. Wohlfarth to examine an underexplored variable: personality. The authors build on legal realism research by arguing that a justice’s personality can help identify the justices for whom ideological and reputational considerations will carry the greatest weight. They focus on conscientiousness, as conscientious people are attentive, hardworking, and deliberate in their actions—traits commonly associated with good judges. As such, the authors theorize that conscientious justices should be more diligent in trying to fulfill their obligation to settle important legal disputes, even at the expense of their personal policy goals.
In The Conscientious Justice, the authors use text analysis software on preconfirmation speeches, articles, and separate opinions to develop a standardized measure of conscientiousness for 38 justices, from Justice Hugo Black to Justice Elena Kagan. The explanation of their process and rigorous validity checks provide convi
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