Pa. House favors raising judicial retirement age to 75

     Ron Castille, Chief Justice of the  Pennsylvania Supreme Court, stepped down from the bench last year after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

    Ron Castille, Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, stepped down from the bench last year after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

    A slightly higher age limit for Pennsylvania judges is two steps away from becoming a reality. The state House has passed a proposed constitutional amendment to bump the mandatory retirement age from 70 to 75 years.

    “For a judge, the older you are, the more experience you have – life experience, courtroom experience, case law experience – the more experience you have, the better you’re going to be as a judge,” said sponsoring Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery.

    The House passed the measure without debate on Tuesday by a vote of 154 to 44. The Senate GOP has not made plans to vote on the proposal.

    All constitutional amendments require consecutive passage in two legislative sessions. The age-limit change passed the Legislature last session. If the Senate passes the measure within the current two-year session, the amendment will face a voter referendum.

    According to Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, 33 states and the District of Columbia have mandatory retirement ages for judges. Pennsylvania’s judicial age limit was set in 1968. A proposal to eliminate the limit completely was introduced in 2010, but it died in committee.

    “I’m in the minority of lawyers who have actually argued before the United States Supreme Court, where they don’t have a mandatory age limit,” Harper said. “And those guys are very smart — and some of them are quite old. And it hasn’t affected their ability to act as justices.”

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