Meaningful Information, Meaningful Retention

8 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2012 Last revised: 9 Nov 2012

Date Written: March 22, 2012


This short essay responds to Professor Todd Pettys's recent article, "Judicial Retention Elections, the Rule of Law, and the Rhetorical Weaknesses of Consequentialism." Professor Pettys asserts that traditional arguments in favor of judicial retention fail to resonate with morally outraged voters, placing judges at increased risk of losing their jobs for issuing controversial decisions. I argue that Pettys’s analysis is valuable but incomplete, in that it fails to account adequately for voter concerns about procedural fairness and the judiciary’s institutional role. In that vein, I offer an alternative explanation for the non-retention of three Iowa Justices in November 2010, as well as a more upbeat outlook for the future of judicial retention elections.

Keywords: Judicial elections, retention, retention elections, moral mandates, judicial accountability, judicial performance evaluation, JPE, Iowa, Varnum, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, voters, sociological accountability, procedural fairness, 2010 elections

JEL Classification: D70, D80, K40

Suggested Citation

Singer, Jordan M., Meaningful Information, Meaningful Retention (March 22, 2012). Buffalo Law Review The Docket, Forthcoming; New England Law | Boston Research Paper No. 12-03. Available at SSRN:

Jordan M. Singer (Contact Author)

New England Law | Boston ( email )

154 Stuart St.
Boston, MA 02116
United States
(617) 368-1434 (Phone)


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