Personality Tests May Be Used to Pick New Judges

Article excerpt

JUDGES SHOULD be given personality tests to assess their suitability for the bench, a report commissioned by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, said yesterday.

The tests, devised by psychologists, would help Lord Irvine to identify lawyers with the right personalities to become judges or reach high judicial office. They would also be used to test against attitudes of racism, rudeness and over-conservatism.

The proposal forms part of Sir Leonard Peach's report on the judicial appointments process. Sir Leonard said that a trial group of part-time judges could be used to try out the "psychometric tests" - a form of personality assessment. The tests would then be included in the appointment process for assistant recorders (part- time junior judges) whose number include the Prime Minister's wife, Cherie Booth.

Sir Leonard recommends: "The test should be completed prior to interview in controlled surroundings and its result should be used by the panel during the course of the interview and certainly in the final evaluation of the candidate."

Dr Colin Cooper, a psychologist and senior lecturer at Queen's University Belfast, said that any test on judicial suitability would have to test for set personality traits. He listed these as open- mindedness (willingness to consider new ideas), conscientiousness (careful attention to detail), agreeableness (being able to interact effectively with juries and counsel).

He said conservatism (prejudice, excessive punitiveness and ethnocentrism) was an example of a negative judicial personality trait. Judges would answer dozens of questions designed to test for these qualities. But he stressed that any clued-up aspiring judge would know what the expected answers to the questions would be. …