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Sclerotization of the Judiciary: Judicial Exits from the U.S. Courts of Appeals are Politically Motivated


  • Chen, Daniel L.


Using data from 1802 to 2004, I show that U.S. Courts of Appeals judges are less likely to retire in each of the three quarters preceding a Presidential election when the party of the President at the time the judge leaves is different from the party of the U.S. President who appointed the judge. Judges are more likely to resign in each of the four quarters after a Presidential election, when the party of the President at the time the judge leaves is the same as the party of the President that appointed the judge. My results suggest that 13% of retirements and 43% of resignations are politically motivated. Previous research has not found political cycles because they relied on judges’ self-reports or conducted yearly rather than quarter-to-election analysis. I also show that these political cycles have increased in recent years, which may raise concerns about the political evolution of the judiciary.

Suggested Citation

  • Chen, Daniel L., 2016. "Sclerotization of the Judiciary: Judicial Exits from the U.S. Courts of Appeals are Politically Motivated," TSE Working Papers 16-721, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Feb 2017.
  • Handle: RePEc:tse:wpaper:31128

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chen, Daniel L. & Prescott, J.J., 2016. "Implicit Egoism in Sentencing Decisions: First Letter Name Effects with Randomly Assigned Defendants," TSE Working Papers 16-726, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    2. 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.
    3. Albert Yoon, 2006. "Pensions, Politics, and Judicial Tenure: An Empirical Study of Federal Judges, 1869--2002," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(1), pages 143-180.
    4. Chen, Daniel L. & Moskowitz, Tobias J. & Shue, Kelly, 2016. "Decision-Making Under the Gambler’s Fallacy: Evidence From Asylum Courts, Loan Officers, and Baseball Umpires," IAST Working Papers 16-43, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
    5. repec:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/696237 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Chen, Daniel L. & Michaeli, Moti & Spiro, Daniel, 2016. "Ideological Perfectionism," IAST Working Papers 16-47, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
    7. Daniel L. Chen & Tobias J. Moskowitz & Kelly Shue, 2016. "Decision Making Under the Gambler’s Fallacy: Evidence from Asylum Judges, Loan Officers, and Baseball Umpires," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(3), pages 1181-1242.
    8. Carlos Berdejó & Daniel L. Chen, 2017. "Electoral Cycles among US Courts of Appeals Judges," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(3), pages 479-496.
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    More about this item


    Judicial Tenure; Counter-Majoritarian Difficulty; Polarization;

    JEL classification:

    • K00 - Law and Economics - - General - - - General (including Data Sources and Description)
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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