Let judges serve until 80

A?proposition on the Election Day ballots Tuesday would amend the state constitution to raise the mandatory retirement age for state judges from 70 to 80. We recommend you vote yes.

Currently, elected judges can get three two-year extensions to serve until a maximum age of 76, as long as they’re healthy. For appointed judges, however, like those on the state Court of Appeals, 70 is the firm cutoff. That forced former Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Kaye to retire in 2008, even though she said she wasn’t ready to. She continues to have a productive career in private legal practice.

How many other 70-somethings do you know who continue to have their act together enough to continue careers and, in some cases, to be better than ever at their jobs? We know many and see no reason to force them into retirement.

Of all jobs, this is one that requires wisdom and insight – qualities traditionally seen as increasing as one ages, as long as dementia or other ailments are held at bay. Certainly, a 70-year-old judge who’s completed his or her term is entitled to retire, but it shouldn’t be mandated.

This is especially true now that people are living much longer than in 1869, when the age cap was passed. It’s an outdated law.

Some Republicans took issue with the timing of this amendment, since it would allow Jonathan Lippman, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals and a liberal, to continue after he turns 70 in May 2015. This is not just about him, though. The Office of Court Administration estimates it might let up to 40 judges remain on the bench within the next four years. In years to come, it may affect hundreds of judges.