Judicial Retirements and the Staying Power of U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

13 Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 2016, Forthcoming

Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2016-16

28 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2016

See all articles by Stuart Minor Benjamin

Stuart Minor Benjamin

Duke University School of Law; Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative

Georg Vanberg

Duke University - Department of Political Science

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 2, 2015

Abstract

The influence of U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions depends critically on how these opinions are received and treated by lower courts, which decide the vast majority of legal disputes. We argue that the retirement of Justices on the Supreme Court serves as a simple heuristic device for lower court judges in deciding how much deference to show to Supreme Court precedent. Using a unique dataset of the treatment of all Supreme Court majority opinions in the courts of appeals from 1953 to 2012, we find that negative treatments of Supreme Court opinions increase, and positive treatments decrease, as the Justices who supported a decision retire from the Court. Importantly, this effect exists over and above the impact of retirements on the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court.

Suggested Citation

Benjamin, Stuart Minor and Vanberg, Georg, Judicial Retirements and the Staying Power of U.S. Supreme Court Decisions (December 2, 2015). 13 Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 2016, Forthcoming; Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2016-16. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2737019

Stuart Minor Benjamin (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States
919-613-7275 (Phone)
919-613-7231 (Fax)

Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative ( email )

215 Morris St., Suite 300
Durham, NC 27701
United States

Georg Vanberg

Duke University - Department of Political Science ( email )

140 Science Drive (Gross Hall), 2nd floor
Duke University Mailcode: 90204
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

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