Recognition and Volition: Remembering the Retirement of Justice Gabriel Duvall


When Gabriel Duvall resigned from the U.S. Supreme Court in January 1835, he became its first conventional retiree – the first Justice to voluntarily leave the Court after making a career of it. Everyone before Duvall had either died in office or left after serving briefly (anywhere from four months to five years). Duvall served for more than 23 years. By leaving while still alive, after long service, and at an advanced age (he was 82), Duvall: (a) gave his fellow Justices their first occasion to publicly salute a departing colleague who had devoted himself to the Court, and (b) gave himself a dignified, respectable ending to a long and successful career in the law. But his colleagues did not rise to the occasion, and history has not granted him that ending. This little article is an attempt to partially offset those defects.