The Influence of Retention Politics on Judges' Voting

36 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2007 Last revised: 29 May 2012

Date Written: 2009


This study shows that the political preferences of those responsible for retaining judges are strongly associated with judicial voting. The evidence supports the widespread belief that judges respond to political pressure in an effort to be reelected or reappointed. Using a data set of decisions in state supreme courts from 1995–98, I find that state supreme court judges who face retention decisions by Republicans tend to decide cases in accord with standard Republican policy. Judicial behavior is correspondingly liberal for judges facing retention decisions by Democrats. The results are strongest for judges facing partisan reelections. Among judges with conservative fundamental ideologies, those facing Democratic retention agents vote more liberally than those facing Republican retention agents. Similarly, judges’ voting changes when the political preferences of the retention agents change. Judges with permanent tenure and judges in their last term do not respond to the same forms of political pressure.

Keywords: judges, judicial decisionmaking

JEL Classification: K00, K4, K41

Suggested Citation

Shepherd, Joanna, The Influence of Retention Politics on Judges' Voting (2009). Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 38, No. 1, 2009, Emory Law and Economics Research Paper No. 11-106, Available at SSRN:

Joanna Shepherd (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-8957 (Phone)

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