Relinquishing a position on the Supreme Court either before one is eligible for retirement benefits by tendering a resignation or after serving the requisite period of time to qualify for a pension.
Supreme Court justices may either resign or retire from their positions. Normally, justices who retire from the Court do not engage in further judicial or political activities, although those who resign often do. Resignation or retirement takes on added significance in the case of Supreme Court justices because the U.S. Constitution provides that judges of the supreme and inferior courts are to serve during good behavior. Therefore, unlike members of Congress and the president, federal judges do not have a fixed tenure. The only constitutionally acceptable method by which judges may be removed is through impeachment
Relatively few justices have resigned from the Court. Some justices elected to leave the Court because they were dissatisfied with some aspect of their work on the Court. For example, Thomas Johnson
Other justices have resigned to accept or to seek another office. John Rutledge
James F. Byrnes
Ill health led to the decisions of John Blair, Jr., (1790-1795), Oliver Ellsworth (1796-1800), Gabriel Duvall (1811-1835), and Charles E. Whittaker (1957-1962) to leave the Court.
Within four years of the enactment of this legislation, four members of the Court retired. Advanced age or physical infirmities often prompted retirement. No doubt these factors were instrumental in the retirements of Justices Lewis F. Powell, Jr. (1972-1987), William J. Brennan, Jr. (1956-1990), Thurgood Marshall (1967-1991), and Harry A. Blackmun (1970-1999). Justice Tom C. Clark (1949-1967) retired when his son, Ramsey Clark, was nominated as attorney general of the United States. The elder Clark recognized the awkward situation presented by his continuance on the Court under these circumstances.
Finally, there is some evidence that justices may try to time their retirement so as to permit a president of their own party or philosophically compatible with them to name their successor. Nathan Clifford
The present pattern is for justices to remain on the Court until death or retirement. No member of the Court has died in office since 1954, and no justice has resigned since 1965. With the stature of the Court firmly established, the prestige of membership on the Court widely recognized, and the conditions of service more attractive than in the nineteenth century, resignation to pursue other endeavors is unlikely.
Abraham, Henry. Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. Baum, Lawrence. The Supreme Court. 8th ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2004. Cramton, Roger C., and Paul D. Carrington, eds. Reforming the Court: Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2006. Friedman, Leon, and Israel, Fred, eds. The Justices of the Supreme Court: Their Lives and Opinions. 5 vols. New York: Chelsea House, 1997. Schwartz, Bernard. A History of the Supreme Court. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. Savage, David G., ed. Guide to the United States Supreme Court. 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 2004. Ward, Artemus. Deciding to Leave: The Politics of Retirement from the United States Supreme Court. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003.
Byrnes, James F.
Clark, Tom C.
Disability of justices
Goldberg, Arthur J.
Hughes, Charles Evans
Nominations to the Court
Salaries of justices
Tidelands oil controversy