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NY Assembly: aging judges OK

New York State Chief Justice Jonathan Lippman
Contributed photo

By Fritz Mayer
March 6, 2013

ALBANY, NY — The New York Assembly on February 28 voted to change the state constitution to allow judges to serve up until the age of 80. This is the second time that the measure has passed the assembly and, in order for it to become law, it needs to be approved by the senate and then by the voters.

Currently, the mandatory retirement age for judges is 70. After that age, Supreme Court and Appellate Court Judges can be certified every two years to serve until age 76. Judges on the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, can’t serve beyond age 70.

The amendment would raise the retirement age of all state judges to 80, and the certification process would begin for most judges at age 74, but there would be no certification required for Supreme Court judges.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, “Due to an outdated provision in our state’s constitution, many judges are forced to retire prematurely, at age 70. As our life expectancy continues to grow, mandating that judges retire at the age of 70 has become obsolete and consequently wastes the wealth of knowledge and wisdom that comes from years of experience. This prudent piece of legislation seeks to update our state’s constitution to ensure that our courts continue to benefit from the service of our many dedicated, experienced and productive judges.”

Judiciary Committee chair Helene Weinstein said, “Current law assumes that age alone determines a judge’s functional ability. As a result, many knowledgeable and competent judges are forced to retire too early. The reality is that experienced judges are an extremely valuable asset to our judicial system and shouldn’t be required to retire early if they are otherwise fully capable of fulfilling their duties.”

If the age requirement isn’t raised, the state’s top judge, Chief Justice Jonathan Lippman, would have to leave the bench at the end of 2015. According to a columnist for the New York Post, the change will allow Lippman, who will turn 70 in May of 2015, to serve until 2023, because the term for judges who don’t reach retirement age is 14 years, and Lippman was appointed in 2009.