N.J. considers raising judicial retirement age to 72 or 75

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Gov. Chris Christie has had some trouble getting Democrats in the New Jersey Senate to approve his judicial nominees. And those jurists now on the bench are forced to retire when they turn 70.

Lawmakers are examining measures that would raise the mandatory retirement age for judges. Proposed constitutional amendments would raise the retirement age to 72 or 75.

State trial courts are in a crisis with 53 vacancies, said Paris Eliades. president of the New Jersey Bar Association. And that’s leaving judges with staggering caseloads.

“The effects of this crisis have had a real impact on the residents of this state, all across the state,” Eliades said. “There are lengthy delays and resulting hardships for people seeking divorces, the resolution of business disputes and many other matters.”

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But Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll questions whether state Supreme Court justices should have an opportunity to serve beyond their 70th birthday.

“Over the years, it’s been apparent that some justices come to misunderstand their roles. That’s not much of a problem on the lower courts, but on the higher courts it is,” said Carroll, R-Morris. “The idea of being stuck with somebody forever, in effect, once they’ve managed to sneak through the tenure process is problematic.”

Increasing the mandatory retirement age would allow judges with knowledge and experience to stay on the bench and save taxpayers money by delaying when those judges start collecting their pensions, Eliades maintained.

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