Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Judicial Studies (LL.M.)


Duke University School of Law


Thurgood Marshall famously stated: “I was appointed to a life term, and I intend to serve it.” Justice Marshall’s sentiment is in lockstep with the expressed intent of the Founding Fathers, who embedded the concept of life tenure for Article III judges into the Constitution at the time of its adoption. This paper explores the extent to which Article III judges in this era echo the sentiment expressed by Justice Marshall, and the reasons some Article III judges have elected not to serve a life term. The paper also examines whether Article III judges have gravitated toward careers in the legal academy, a prospect that has been the topic of considerable public discussion within the last ten years, and whether their decisions to leave are driven by economic concerns.

This thesis reports the results of interviews of forty-eight Article III judges divided into three clusters. Cluster One (“Baby Judges”) is composed of judges who have been Article III judges for fewer than five years. Cluster Two (“Sustainers”) is composed of judges who are within five years of qualifying for Senior Status or having qualified for Senior Status. Cluster Three (“The Departed”) is composed of judges who have relinquished their Article III status and departed the ranks of the judiciary. Through the reported experiences and opinions of these Article III judges, this paper seeks to explore the evolution of life tenure for Article III judges and to explore the relationship among departing Article III judges, the legal academy, and judicial compensation.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Judges--Selection and appointment, Employees--Resignation, Judges--Retirement, Judges--Salaries etc.