Modern Departures from the U.S. Supreme Court: Party, Pensions, or Power?
Posted: 3 Dec 2008 Last revised: 16 Jul 2011
Date Written: July 17, 2009
Is strategic retirement from the United States Supreme Court as pervasive in the modern era as commonly claimed, with justices seeking to enable partisan allies to appoint like-minded successors? Empirical consensus remains surprisingly elusive. Our statistical analysis offers improved measures and new evidence regarding the influence of personal and political factors on the probabilities of Supreme Court retirements from 1954 to 2010. Our central finding is that, in deciding whether to stay or go, justices respond more to internal than external factors. More specifically, they consider their role and influence on the Court rather than partisan or ideological congruence with the White House or Senate. This suggests that, at least when it comes to retirement decisions, Supreme Court justices care more about power than party and policy. Helping their party by strategically retiring comes at too high a price: losing their position and influence.
Keywords: Supreme Court, retirement, strategic retirement, pension, regime politics
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