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70 is not so old, say state court judges challenging mandatory retirement rule

Posted May 22, 2013 1:45 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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Pennsylvania law mandates that state court judges retire when they are 70 years old, a rule which has been in existence since 1968. That’s discriminatory, say some jurists, who also object to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court taking control of their commonwealth court lawsuit challenging the rule.

Bucks County Judge Alan Rubenstein, a plaintiff born in 1946, plans to appeal the decision, according to Phillyburbs.com, and he wants a special judge appointed. The law in question mandates that judges “shall be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of seventy years.”

Under the current law, Pennsylvania state court judges older than 70 can work as senior judges. The pay is $534 a day, according to the article, and does not include benefits. Comparatively, a Doylestown Common Pleas Court judge earns $171,271 a year, plus benefits.

Rubenstein’s case (PDF) is one of three regarding the retirement law, according to Legal Newsline, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court believes that the cases have significant overlap. Also, a state house panel recently approved raising the retirement age to 75, Phillyburbs reports. Another bill, which would require voter approval, proposes abolishing mandatory retirement for judges.

The plaintiffs in Rubenstein’s case include judges and voters. The voters argue that they were deprived of plaintiff Rochelle Friedman’s service when she was forced to retire from the bench in 2008.

“Like race, national origin and gender, age is an immutable characteristic that bears no relationship to an individual’s capabilities, performance and ability to contribute to society,” the complaint states. It notes that eight senior judges serve on the state’s appellate court, and 100 are in common pleas court.

Louisiana law also mandates that judges retire by age 70, but there’s pending legislation there to throw it out. States seem to hold positions all across the board on the issue. Vermont puts the mandatory retirement age for judges at 90, according to Judgepedia.com, while there is no age limit for judges in other states, including California, and Delaware.

Also see:

Pew's Stateline: "Should Judges Be Forced To Retire?"

ABAJournal.com: "Six Pennsylvania Judges Challenge Constitutionality of Mandated Retirement at Age 70"

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