Should Judges Have To Retire At Age 70?

Across the United States, 33 states and the District of Columbia have mandatory retirement for judges who reach a specific age. 

The most popular mandatory retirement age is 70, and Michigan is one of the states that requires judges to retire at 70. Vermont has the highest mandatory retirement age at 90. 

There are arguments brewing that 70 is too young for a mandatory retirement age -- mainly because life expectancy is longer today. Many of the mandatory retirement age limits were put into place 50+ years ago when life expectancy was 61, and a judge in New York argues "as long as I am physically and mentally capable of doing this, I want to keep doing this."

New York is set to vote on legislation "that would amend the State Constitution, if approved by voters, to extend the retirement age to 80 for hundreds of judges statewide." As the sponsor of the bill said, "[t]he 70-year-old that existed in the 1890s is not the 70-year-old of today."

I see this from both sides. On one hand, I would hate to be told when I had to quit working a job that I love based on a seemingly arbitrary age limit imposed a half century (or more) ago. On the other hand, the current crop of judges still tend toward white, old men, and it would be nice to have them make way for a more diverse crop of judges, as well as those new to the profession.

I remember upon entering law school that there were projections about the number of attorneys that would retire and make way for the newbies, but those projections did not hold true. With the recession, many people (including attorneys and librarians, for that matter), have to continue to work, which clogs the system for people newly entering the field. 

At least if a judge doesn't want to stop working at 70, he could always go back to private practice with the vast network that he created while on the bench. But something tells me that given that choice, many of them would choose retirement.  


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