Pennsylvania one step closer to raising judicial retirement age to 75
HARRISBURG — The state Senate on Tuesday took a major step toward raising the mandatory retirement age for justices and judges from 70 to 75, approving a House-passed bill to change the state Constitution.
The Senate approved the bill 44-6.
As a proposed constitutional amendment, the legislation needs approval from both chambers in the 2014-15 session. It then would be placed on the ballot for voters' consideration. A constitutional amendment doesn't need the governor's signature.
The earliest public vote would be November 2015, said Lynn Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a judicial watchdog group. The group has not taken a position on the question of mandatory retirement for judges.
People are living longer with “higher mental acuity,” Marks said. “It's a discussion under way in many professions.”
Federal judges face no age limit. In the Supreme Court, former Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes served until 1932 when he was almost 91 years old. Associate Justice John Paul Stevens retired in 2010 at age 90.
Supporters of mandatory retirement ages say it makes room for “fresh blood” on the bench and that mental capabilities can deteriorate with age. Opponents argue that age is arbitrary. Each decision should be voluntary and there's no guarantee younger judges will perform better, according to an analysis Marks' group presented to the House Judiciary Committee in April.
In 1968, when the mandatory retirement age was placed in the constitution, life expectancy was 70, and today it is 78, said Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton County.
Pennsylvania is one of 33 states with a mandatory retirement age, typically varying from 70 to 75.
“We do ourselves a disservice by forcing retirement (of judges) so early,” said John Burkoff, a law school professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “I think it would make a lot more sense to let judges stay on the bench longer, at least until the point where they actually show signs that they can no longer do the job effectively.”
So-called senior, or part-time, judges in Pennsylvania can serve until age 78. They are retired judges, paid $532 in daily compensation.
In 2012, the state paid 86 senior judges $11 million in combined pension payments and income, according to a study this month by the Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre. Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille defended the practice, saying it saves taxpayers' money because it's cheaper than creating full-time judgeships.
Castille turns 70 in March and must retire by Dec. 31, 2014.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Behind Liriano, Pirates complete sweep of Diamondbacks
- Crosby, Malkin want to remain in Pittsburgh
- McCain renews push to have military, not CIA, manage drone strikes
- Injured Penguins optimistic about returning next season
- McKees Rocks fire displaces 2 residents
- Israel thwarts terrorist attack
- Boy, 15, charged with firing shots in Brighton Heights
- United States aided rebels in Caucasus, Russian President Putin claims
- Penguins notebook: Crosby to play in worlds for 1st time since 2006
- MLB notebook: Cards’ ace Wainwright placed on DL, awaits MRI
- NASA head tells Pitt grads their generation will ‘walk the face of Mars’