Six Pennsylvania Judges Challenge Constitutionality of Mandated Retirement at Age 70

Six Pennsylvania judges challenging a mandatory retirement age of 70 are seeking to overcome a big impediment to their lawsuit: a 1991 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld mandatory retirement for Missouri judges.

The suit filed Wednesday in Harrisburg claims violations of equal protection and due process under the U.S. Constitution, as well as violations of state constitutional provisions protecting the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of civil rights. The Legal Intelligencer and the Wall Street Journal Law Blog have stories. How Appealing has links to a press release and the lawsuit (PDF).

The suit acknowledges two rulings allowing mandated retirement for judges: the Supreme Court decision in Gregory v. Ashcroft as well as a 1989 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, Gondelman v. Commonwealth. But the suit argues Pennsylvania’s constitutional provision providing for mandatory retirement should nonetheless be struck down, citing a decreased incidence of cognitive decline in older Americans since the 1990s. “Societal and demographic changes demonstrate that this precedent should no longer obtain,” the suit says.

According to the National Center for State Courts, 33 states and the District of Columbia have mandatory retirement ages for at least some of their judges. The ages range from 70 to 90.

The Pennsylvania judges are represented on a pro bono basis by Robert Heim of Dechert.

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