The Incentives Approach to Judicial Retirement

30 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2005


The concept of life tenure for judges has been roundly criticized in the legal academy, with many scholars advocating a mandatory retirement age or term limits for justices. These command and control approaches, however, do not target the most important factors in the retirement decision. Empirical studies demonstrate that workload, income, and prestige are the paramount factors influencing judicial retirement. Using empirical evidence, this essay proposes a judicial retirement function that can be used to model the retirement decisions of justices and other judicial actors. Rather than constitutional amendment, the incentives approach to retirement suggests that Congress should focus its attention on making incremental institutional modifications, such as to pensions and workload, to encourage retirement.

JEL Classification: K00, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Stras, David R., The Incentives Approach to Judicial Retirement. Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 90, 2006; Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05-45. Available at SSRN:

David R. Stras (Contact Author)

Minnesota Supreme Court ( email )

25 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
St. Paul, MN 55155
United States

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