Judicial Institutions and the Political Economy of Retirements

  • David A. HughesEmail author
Original Paper


I examine judicial retirements among elected and unelected state supreme court justices. I present new data relating to justices’ economic incentives to retire. I develop theoretical expectations for the rationality of judicial departures based upon political, economic, and institutional factors. Results demonstrate that both elected and unelected justices time their retirements upon their pension eligibility. Nevertheless, the electoral connection may constrain justices from securing some of these benefits. I find only limited evidence that justices retire in order to influence the politics of their successors and virtually no evidence that elected justices retire out of fear of losing reelection.


Judicial retirements State politics Judicial elections Public pensions 



I would like to thank Scott Ainsworth, John Brooks, Bob Grafstein, Todd Curry, Garrett Vande Kamp, and Rich Vining, in addition to participants at the 2017 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, along with the anonymous reviewers, for their valuable feedback regarding this research. I also thank Rich Fording for providing me with cost of living data in the American states. Finally, I am indebted to Xiaofeng Chen for her research assistance. All remaining errors are my own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Auburn University at MontgomeryMontgomeryUSA

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