Communicating Judicial Retirement
Álvaro Bustos; Tonja Jacobi.
Documento de Trabajo IE-PUC, N° 450, 2014.
Even justices who have already decided to retire may not wish to make that information public immediately. Strategically shaping perceptions of their own retirement possibilities can maximize justices’ chances of leaving behind a Court with an ideology aligned with their own ideologies. An obvious mechanism to achieve this is to influence the President and the Senate to choose an ideologically compatible replacement. More specifically, a retiring justice can manipulate his perceived probability of retirement in a way that exploits the fact that case votes of relatively new members of the Court shape how their own ideologies are perceived; influencing the expression of preferences of newer justices can in turn induce the President and the Senate to fill the vacancy with a nominee whose ideology is preferred by the retiring justice. We show that “strong messages” (indicating a high probability of retirement) are more likely when relatively new members of the Court engage in untruthful voting and the ideologies of the retiring justice and the new members are aligned. In contrast, “weak messages” (indicating a low probability of retirement) are more likely when the relatively new members of the Court vote sincerely or, if they do vote untruthfully, the ideologies of the retiring justice and the new members are not aligned.