Personality type and judicial decision makng

AuthorJohn W. Kennedy, Jr.
PositionJudge of the Superior Courts of California (retired)
Until about ten years ago, judicial education in most
states consisted primarily of substantive courses dealing with
discrete areas of law. The main goal of most judicial
education was, and continues to be, to teach “the law”. In a
departure from traditional judicial education programs, in
1984, the California Center for Judicial Education (CJER)
established a small committee of judges to design a course
dealing with judicial fact finding and decision making. The
goal of the course was to help judges examine their
individual fact finding and decision-making styles and, as a
result of subjecting them to objective examination, improve
upon them. In designing the course, the faculty sought a
psychological measuring device that would be nonthreatening
to judges, inexpensive, relatively easy to administer, and
focused on cognitive and judgment processes.
The Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) was
identified as the most appropriate psychometric tool for this
purpose, and several CJER faculty members, including the
author of this article, completed the Association for
Psychological Type’s (APT) certification process to
administer and interpret the MBTI. The MBTI is
administered worldwide to several million people a year has
been translated into numerous foreign languages. It is widely
used throughout industry, government, education, and
The MBTI has long been considered useful in team
building, management, marriage counselling, and job
2002] Personality Type and Judicial Decision Making 50
* Judge of the Superior Courts of California (retired). This article is
reprinted with permission from Volume 37 No. 3, Summer 1998 of The
Judges’ Journal.
placement. Within the judicial context, it has been found to
have unique application to judges handling family and
juvenile law, and has been used specifically in judicial
education programs targeted to those groups. During the past
ten years, I have administered the MBTI to more than 1,300
judges across the United States in the dozens of judicial
training programs that I have taught. For my purposes, I have
found it to be extremely helpful in my course work on
judicial fact finding and decision making. However, its use in
California judicial education has even expanded beyond fact
finding and decision making, to include faculty training,
collegiality, court management, stress and time management.
In this article, I will share my experience in using the
MBTI to assess the impact of personality type on judicial fact
finding and decision making.
The MBTI is a pencil-to-paper self-administered
inventory. It is an “inventory” in that it counts the number of
responses in various areas of cognitive and judgmental
functioning. It is not a “test” because there are no right or
wrong answers. The MBTI consists of a total of 126 items. It
is divided into three parts. The first and third parts are
multiple choice, and the second part requires the subject to
choose from a pair of words. It can be administered in either
a self-scoring form, or scored by template. The inventory
takes approximately 30-45 minutes to administer.
The results of the MBTI are scored on four scales that
identify and quantify preferences between (1) extroversion
and introversion; (2) sensing and intuition; (3) thinking and
feeling; and (4) judging and perceiving. It is important to note
that the MBTI measures preference, not skill or competence.
I will not provide a detailed description or explanation of
these scales here, as there are dozens of books and other
resources that provide such information with more
51 Judicial Studies Institute Journal [2:2

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