Monday, September 25, 2023
Ryan C. Black (Michigan State University), Ryan J. Owens (University of Wisconsin), Patrick C. Wohlfarth (University of Maryland), The Effects of Lifetime Tenure and Aging in the United States Federal Judiciary (2023):
Many federal judges in the United States are older and serving longer than ever before. Lifetime tenure combined with advances in human life expectancy have contributed to an increasingly aged judiciary. Yet, this aging comes with likely costs—the effects of cognitive aging on the behavior of federal judges. We apply prevailing neuroscience theories of human cognitive aging to the work of federal judges and examine the potential costs of aging to judicial behavior. We show empirically that aging influences how judges behave across a variety of judicial tasks. Aged judges require more time than their younger colleagues to draft their opinions. Moreover, despite taking more time to complete tasks, older judges increasingly turn to simplistic cognitive shortcuts when bargaining with their colleagues over opinion content, interpreting law, and casting their votes. These findings raise important normative questions about lifetime tenure and the resources the federal government currently allocates to the judiciary.