The Volokh Conspiracy

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Justices Who Died in Office

Before Chief Justice Rehnquist's death in 2013, the last Justice to die in office was Justice Jackson


Since the Eisenhower administration, four Justices have died in office.

  • Justice Robert Jackson died in 1954.
  • Chief Justice William Rehnquist died in 2005.
  • Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016.
  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in 2020.

It is remarkable that we have had two Justices, die four years apart, in election years.

NEXT: Five Ways Justice Ginsburg's Death Will Affect the Supreme Court Before Her Successor Is Confirmed

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5 responses to “Justices Who Died in Office

  1. Well, I can think of another example of a Justice who died in office, during a Presidential election year:

  2. What are the odds?

  3. Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was very unexpected. Justice Ginsburg’s death was inevitable. You have to wonder why so many cling to power rather than spend their last years enjoying time with their families? Is it power corrupts? Do they believe they are irreplaceable?
    It is not just Justices either, look at Senator McCain, dying of brain cancer yet never resigned. The same with Rep. John Lewis.

    Ginsburg had health problems for years yet clung to power. She had 8 years under Obama to resign and ensure another liberal judge would be appointed, yet hung on to power. First hoping a liberal President would win the election, and the hoping she could survive until the next election. Her death at this time is going to throw our country into more turmoil, at a time it is already buried in turmoil. While I honor her service to the country even though I disagreed with many of her decisions, I find her clinging to power very selfish and I think it will be very hurtful to this nation.

    1. During the online oral argument, she attended them from her hospital bed. Yeah it wasn’t great.

      Maybe there ought to be term or age limits. Its a system where justices feel the need to work until they die or else they get replaced by the opposite party. At least that is how it is nowadays unfortunately. Even Kennedy was not jn great health, but held it out until Obama left office.

    2. In fairness, what else did she have but her work?
      Her husband was dead, her children grown, and I’m not so sure she fully approved of the two women Obama appointed.

      All of her friends were going to vote for Hillary (and did) and Beltway Tunnelvision never expected President Trump. Remember both that Bill had appointed her to SCOTUS and that there was bad blood between the Clintons and Obamas — she wanted to give Hillary the glory of replacing her.

      I agree that she wasn’t thinking for the greater good of the country, but it’s been 60 years since anyone did that — and look how much good it did him 14 years later…