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A Theory of Judicial Retirement

Author

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  • Álvaro Bustos
  • Tonja Jacobi

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Álvaro Bustos & Tonja Jacobi, 2014. "A Theory of Judicial Retirement," Documentos de Trabajo 451, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
  • Handle: RePEc:ioe:doctra:451
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    File URL: http://www.economia.uc.cl/docs/dt_451.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Schwartz, Edward P, 1992. "Policy, Precedent, and Power: A Positive Theory of Supreme Court Decision-Making," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(2), pages 219-252, April.
    2. Ryan C. Black & Christina L. Boyd, 2012. "US Supreme Court Agenda Setting and the Role of Litigant Status," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(2), pages 286-312.
    3. Caldeira, Gregory A & Wright, John R & Zorn, Christopher J W, 1999. "Sophisticated Voting and Gate-Keeping in the Supreme Court," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 549-572, October.
    4. de Figueiredo, John M & Tiller, Emerson H, 1996. "Congressional Control of the Courts: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of Expansion of the Federal Judiciary," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(2), pages 435-462, October.
    5. Ross Stolzenberg & James Lindgren, 2010. "Retirement and death in office of U.S. Supreme Court justices," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 47(2), pages 269-298, May.
    6. Gely, Rafael & Spiller, Pablo T, 1990. "A Rational Choice Theory of Supreme Court Statutory Decisions with Applications to the State Farm and Grove City Cases," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 263-300, Fall.
    7. Joshua B. Fischman, 2011. "Estimating Preferences of Circuit Judges: A Model of Consensus Voting," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(4), pages 781-809.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K10 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - General (Constitutional Law)
    • K30 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - General
    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General

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