Sclerotization of the Judiciary: Judicial Exits from The U.S. Courts of Appeals Are Politically Motivated
26 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2016 Last revised: 19 May 2017
Date Written: April 20, 2017
Less than 1% of U.S. Federal judges report political motivations for retirement and resignation. However using two centuries of data, I show that 13% of retirements and 36% of resignations follow political cycles. When the President comes from a different political party as judge’s party of appointment, U.S. Courts of Appeals judges are less likely to retire in each of the three quarters before a Presidential election. In contrast, judges are more likely to resign in each of the four quarters after a Presidential election when the President comes from the judge’s party of appointment. Politically motivated exits have increased significantly in recent years to constitute one-fifth of retirements since 1975. I am able to uncover these patterns by analyzing the data at the quarter-to-election level, while prior research has relied on self-reports or yearly analysis. That highly experienced professionals making common law precedent can be self-deceiving raises questions about judicial impartiality. I cannot rule out the possibility that judges are outright deceptive, which also raises the question of outright deception of professionals who claim to be fair.
Keywords: Judicial Tenure, Counter-Majoritarian Difficulty, Polarization
JEL Classification: D7, K0, Z1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation