The Washington Post: Why Are the Deaths of Sitting Supreme Court Justices So Rare?
Approximately 100 justices have served on the U.S. Supreme Court and left, and fewer than half have died while still holding the position. Scott Boddery, visiting assistant professor of political science, writes about why modern justices are much less likely to die in office in a piece for The Washington Post.
Before 1869, there were no pensions for federal judges. Once a pension system was put into place, laws governing the system were amended periodically to make retirement provisions more generous. Since the mid-1950s, Boddery writes, judges have had the freedom to base their retirement decisions on considerations more political and personal than financial.