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The Provision of Insurance?

Judicial Independence and the Post-tenure Fate of Leaders

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2022

Brad Epperly*
University of South Carolina
Contact the author at


Leading explanations of judicial independence argue political competition incentivizes those in power to create independent courts as insurance against uncertain futures. While much work addresses the role competition plays, little analyzes the fundamental assumption that courts provide political insurance. I offer an original hypothesis as to how independent courts provide insurance against post-tenure punishment and test this using data on the post-tenure fate of leaders from 1960 to 2004. Results show independence is associated with significantly higher probabilities of unpunished post-tenure fate. The article builds on and extends existing political insurance explanations and offers the first test of one of their critical assumptions.

Research Article
© 2013 by the Law and Courts Organized Section of the American Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

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I would like to thank Tom Ginsburg, Victor Menaldo, and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. Replication data and code are available on the author’s website (


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