July 5, 2012
Confirming the Conventional Wisdom: SCOTUS Justices Time Their Retirements to Suit Partisan Politics
From the abstract of Retirement and Death in Office of U.S. Supreme Court Justices [SSRN] by Ross M. Stolzenberg (Univ. of Chicago Sociology Department) and James Lindgren (Northwestern Univ. School of Law):
In general, our empirical account supports the rich historical literature that documented individual cases in which justices resigned, retired, or took senior status to perpetuate party influence on the Court. We find that Supreme Court Justices act more or less as one would expect sophisticated people to act regarding their careers. While personal factors, such as pension eligibility, are more important predictors of retirement than political variables, the data are nonetheless consistent with a hypothesis of politicized departure: Whether leaving by retirement, resignation, or death, justices tend to time their departures from the Court based in part on a president’s party and the years remaining in a president’s term in office.