The Politics of Judicial Departures in the U.S. Federal Courts
32 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2008
Date Written: April 15, 2008
We develop and test a simple decision-theoretic model of voluntary departures from the U.S. federal courts, one that formally incorporates both personal and political considerations into judges' decisions to leave the bench. Our analysis goes beyond previous work in examining such departures across all three levels of the federal judicial hierarchy, using a consistent coding of the relevant influences on such decisions, and for all judges sitting on Article III courts from 1789 through 2002. Our findings indicate that while personal factors related to salary, pension eligibility, and job satisfaction dominate judges' retirement decisions, political factors - here, the ideological distance of the judge from his or her likely successor, and the potential significance of that anticipated ideological shift - also play an important role, particularly in the lower courts.
Keywords: federal courts, judges, vacancies, survival analysis
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