A Theory of Judicial Retirement
Bustos, A., & Jacobi, T. (2015). A theory of justices’ retirement. American Law and Economics Review, 17(2), 529-565.
44 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2014 Last revised: 21 Feb 2020
Date Written: June 11, 2014
For over 50 years, narrative and empirical accounts of judicial retirement have selected variables on a range of unstated assumptions, with discordant results. This paper introduces a formal model in which the justices, the President and the Senate are rational agents who aim to shift the median ideology of the Court as close as possible to their own ideologies. The model shows that the probability of retirement depends on a set of personal, contextual and political variables. It provides a more rigorous theory for the effect of extant variables, reveals erroneous conclusions in the literature, and identifies variables that have not been previously appreciated, such as the ideologies of the non-retiring justices and whether the ideology of the retiring justice is moderate or extreme. This more complete explanation of strategic judicial retirements raises empirically testable predictions to differentiate among the disparate findings of the existing literature.
Keywords: Probability of Retirement, Supreme Court, Median Ideology, Judicial Ideology
JEL Classification: K10, K30, K40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation