How Likely Is It Antonin Scalia Will Die in the Next Four Years?

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Jan. 14 2013 6:00 AM

The Supreme Court Justice Death Calculator

How likely is it Antonin Scalia will die in the next four years? Two liberals? Find out with this grim calculator.

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Probability — Based on 10,000 simulations

Odds are at least one Supreme Court Justice will die in the next four years. President Obama surely knows this. And when the American public voted last November, they surely knew it, too.

What are the odds that it will be Justice Scalia? How likely is it that two conservatives will die? Justice Ginsberg? Using publicly available data from the Centers for Disease Control, we can get rough odds for many different scenarios. It's rough because it assumes, to put it briefly, that Clarence Thomas has the life expectancy of the average 62-year-old black man. Which is likely not true. But it is true that with four justices in their 70s—and Ginsburg turning 80 this year—this Supreme Court is one of the oldest in a long time. As the late great statistician John Tukey put it, “without assumptions there can be no conclusions.” So let’s make some assumptions, for the sake of grim fun.

Chris Kirk is Slate's interactives editor. Follow him on Twitter.