Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Vote in Albany on Changing Retirement Ages for Judges - NYTimes.com

New York's Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman is nearing 70
Judges in New York now have hope of postponing their retirement to age 80.   In New Jersey the state constitution sets 70 as mandatory retirement age for judges.  It helps assure a flow of new blood.  That means nominees picked by the current Governor with the consent of the majority party in the Legislature.  For the past 60 years that has meant choices between moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats.  

When he was elected three years ago Chris Christie declared his intention to remake the state's "liberal" Supreme Court and others in a judiciary who had run afoul of his own views on school funding, open housing, budget cutting etc.  A partisan standoff resulted.  Debate on judicial retirement age ceased being a calculation of the point of declining energy and competence.  It became a debate on spurring or retarding ideological change in the judiciary.   Judicial politics in new Jersey came to resemble the federal government - where Republicans seek to block any attempt by President Obama to remake the federal judiciary (which has life tenure).
At the New Jersey Law Journal Editorial Board we have called for raising the age to 75, a vote, some would say, in favor of prolonging the consensus of the past several decades.  

Vote in Albany on Changing Retirement Ages for Judges - NYTimes.com: by Jesse McKinley
"ALBANY — At 74, Justice Sidney F. Strauss loves his job and has no desire to stop working. But at the end of 2014, he may be forced into his golden years by a mandatory retirement rule"...Each year, judges across New York and the rest of the country grudgingly hang up their robes because of these rules, many of which were inscribed in state constitutions well before the eras of penicillin, cholesterol drugs and hip replacements. More than 30 states and the District of Columbia have an age limit on jurists, according to the National Center for State Courts: 70 is the limit in many states, but in Vermont, it is an optimistic 90.

In New York, judges have to retire at either 70 or 76, depending on their courts. But this year, a reprieve seems possible.

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