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What Justices Want
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Book description

The most sophisticated theories of judicial behavior depict judges as rational actors who strategically pursue multiple goals when making decisions. However, these accounts tend to disregard the possibility that judges have heterogeneous goal preferences - that is, that different judges want different things. Integrating insights from personality psychology and economics, this book proposes a new theory of judicial behavior in which judges strategically pursue multiple goals, but their personality traits determine the relative importance of those goals. This theory is tested by analyzing the behavior of justices who served on the US Supreme Court between 1946 and 2015. Using recent advances in text-based personality measurement, Hall evaluates the influence of the 'big five' personality traits on the justices' behavior during each stage of the Court's decision-making process. What Justices Want shows that personality traits directly affect the justices' choices and moderate the influence of goal-related situational factors on justices' behavior.


‘Professor Hall has produced a fascinating study of Supreme Court justices' personality traits that opens a new window on their decision-making. Using a sophisticated machine-learning model to assess the justices' written opinions, Hall identifies specific personality types and characteristics that ring true in many instances based on our own anecdotal experiences observing the Court. By blending psychological analysis with our current knowledge of judicial attitudes, Professor Hall's work makes a uniquely interesting and creative contribution to the literature.'

Stefanie A. Lindquist - Arizona State University

‘Using innovative data and appropriate methods to demonstrate the role personality plays in structuring judicial behavior, Hall does so much more than pose a challenge to existing accounts. He takes nothing short of a quantum leap in the quest to develop a deeper and more realistic conception of judging.'

Lee Epstein - Ethan A. H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor, Washington University, St Louis

'Professor Hall makes a solid contribution to our knowledge. It links a leading theory in psychology to virtually every type of decision that has been modeled by quantitative research on the Supreme Court. It addresses an interesting and important topic and is methodologically sophisticated. Written in an engaging fashion, What Justices Want will be an important and lasting study.'

Kevin T. McGuire - University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

‘… Hall’s book is an impressive piece of work. Its insights are valuable for scholars, graduate students, and [*49] advanced undergraduates interested in Supreme Court dynamics and the practical implications of personality theory. The book did exactly what good books in the discipline are supposed to do: it made me think about how justices approach their tasks in an entirely different way. Hall is clearly pushing the envelope in the right direction.’

Eileen Braman Source: Law and Politics Book Review

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