Strategic Retirement in Comparative Perspective
31 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2012 Last revised: 15 Aug 2012
Date Written: 2012
Studies of the US Supreme Court debate whether justices time their retirement strategically to allow for the nomination of like-minded judges. Does this practice reflect a widespread behavioral regularity or is it just idiosyncratic to the US case? We develop a formal model of strategic retirement and test it with empirical evidence for Supreme Court members in six countries (the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Panama) between 1900 and 2005. This sample of countries allows us to hold some contextual variables constant (e.g., an important role of the president in the selection process) while observing variance in others (political instability and judicial career paths). We show that career ambitions and future expectations about politics, more than ideological concerns, drive the justices’ decisions.
Keywords: Supreme Court, strategic retirement, mandatory retirement, progressive ambition
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