A personality is a unique feature of each individual that defines and dictates everyday action in their lives. A personality is a fundamental human trait. Much like other humans, U.S. circuit court judges have personalities that shape their lives and impact their daily behavior. However, unlike most other humans, the personality of a circuit judge impacts the law and lives of the public. While the U.S. Courts of Appeals are supremely influential actors in the U.S. federal judiciary hearing almost 50,000 cases a year, studies of personality’s impact on judges has been limited to the Supreme Court. With a discretionary and continually shrinking Supreme Court caseload, circuit courts are increasingly the courts of last resort, suggesting their importance and policy influence will only grow stronger.
To rectify this issue, I received a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (Award Number: 2017311) to collect, digitize, and make machine-readable novel, pre-confirmation texts of all nominees to the federal circuit courts from 1981-the present. Using these texts, I utilize IBM Watson Personality Insight (WPI) software to create Big Five personality traits estimates for circuit judge nominees. These traits in hand, I am able to analyze the impact of personality on several aspects of circuit judicial behavior.
Once my dissertation is complete, I will make this data broadly available for other researchers. In particular, I will be releasing both the data and subsequent personality profiles for each circuit judge. The data available will include: 1) fully searchable PDFs of each pre-confirmation writing organized by judge; 2) machine-readable text files for each text gathered; 3) Big Five personality estimates. These data will be housed on Harvard’s Dataverse for easy accessibility to researchers. This will provide access to this rich data source previously unavailable in a single, unified repository.