A new senate joint resolution would lift the age limit of 70 for state judges and has received the support of the State Bar Representative Assembly. Likewise, a house joint resolution that would push the age limit to 75 is also being supported as a compromise that would achieve some of the same goals. Voters would have to take up the issue in order to amend the constitution.
Age Does Not Equal Competence
The arguments against term limits are simple. As of now, there is no way to remove judges showing little competence, regardless of their age. With the age limit of 70 for judges, many of the state’s best have been pushed out the door because of an event on the calendar that corresponds to the judge’s birthday. Performance is not taken into account.
On the other hand, judges who are 50 or younger and performing poorly in their roles can feel safe that there are several decades ahead in the job. This issue has forced several attempts to end the age restrictions for serving as a judge. In fact, the system in place represents age discrimination to many observers.
A Question of Civil Rights
Michigan Appeals Court Judge Peter D. O’Connell told Michigan Lawyers Weekly the age limit was outdated. “Requiring competent judges to leave at age 70 is a violation of our civil rights,” he said. “Age is not the factor. It’s competence, and [the question is] how do you get rid of people who aren’t doing the job.”
To find out where the provision comes from, the trail goes all the way back to 1908. Since then, life expectancy has changed a great deal and the standard in place a century ago is hardly relevant to 2015 and beyond. As Judge O’Connell said, “70 is the new 50.” Soon enough, Michigan voters may weigh in on the subject. For further information please visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com .