Supreme Court appointment gaps
Conkle, Daniel O.
conkle at INDIANA.EDU
Tue Apr 3 20:28:25 PDT 2001
I understand the point about longer life expectancy, but not about
retirement benefits: generous retirement benefits would create an incentive
to retire, right, not to remain on the Court for ever-longer periods of
time. What am I missing? - Dan Conkle
From: Ward, Artemus [mailto:AWard at CSUCHICO.EDU]
Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2001 5:26 PM
To: CONLAWPROF at LISTSERV.UCLA.EDU
Subject: Supreme Court appointment gaps
I have been doing research on Supreme Court retirements and Sandy Levinson
is correct that decreased workload has contributed to justices remaining in
their seats longer. The key one-two punch, according to the work I've done,
is longer life expectancy (currently average life expectancy for S. Ct.
justices is 89!) and generous retirement benefits. Since justices can
retire with full benefits under the rule of 80 (age 65 plus 15 years of
federal court service), current members of the Court enjoy a whopping 24
year window with which to time their departures for partisan reasons. I
have found that since 1954 when the age was decreased to 65, justices HAVE
been strategic in their departure decisions.
Dept. of Political Science
California State University, Chico
Chico, CA 95929
From: Sanford Levinson [<mailto:SLevinson at MAIL.LAW.UTEXAS.EDU>]
One explanation for these "gaps," of course, might be (I've not done the
research to know if this is actually true) the perverse incentive to
appoint very young judges who live forever, especially since they no longer
have to do much heavy lifting (such as ride circuit or even write their own
opinions). For me this simply reinforces the argument for term limits.
At 05:37 PM 04/02/2001 -0700, you wrote:
>This is probably not an original observation, but, prompted by the recent
>on-list speculations about Supreme Court retirements (including my own):
>The current gap since the last Supreme Court appointment -- 7 years since
>Breyer in 1994 -- is the longest in 180 years, and the second longest ever
>in the history of the Court, first place going to the astonishing 12-year
>gap between the appointments of Justices Story and Thompson in 1811 and
>The third-longest gaps were three of six years:
>1975-81 (Stevens to O'Connor)
>1882-88 (Blatchford to Lamar)
>1864-70 (Chase to Strong) (though I would argue this one was "artificial"
>since Congress deliberately abolished seats to keep Andrew Johnson from
>Five-year gaps appear to have been fairly common.
>Random chance or any lessons to be drawn? Two of the four longest "gaps
>that count" have been within the last quarter century.
>Bryan Wildenthal, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
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