Human Resources News & Insights

State judges sue, challenging mandatory retirement age

If this isn’t a sign of the times, we don’t know what is: A group of Pennsylvania judges have filed a lawsuit claiming a state law requiring them to retire at 70 is discriminatory and unlawful.

The six judges claim the mandatory retirement age violates their rights under the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and under Article I of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The suit contends, among other things, that:

  • These judges have been singled out by the Pennsylvania Constitution on the basis of age – not ability – and are treated differently than other officers and employees of the Commonwealth, who are not forced to retire due to age.
  • To the extent the mandatory retirement provision is an attempt to prevent incapacitated judges from causing harm by continuing to act as judges, the Pennsylvania Constitution separately provides for the removal of incapacitated judges, and thus the mandatory retirement provision only serves to force capable judges to retire.
  • The electorate unreasonably is deprived of the service of judges they have elected because of an arbitrary age classification, without regard to the judges’ ability to perform their judicial duties.
  • Judges over the age of 70 are able to work on “senior” status, performing the same duties as judges under the age of 70, but they are not similarly compensated.
    There is no reasonable – or even rational – basis for paying senior judges less money for the same work than judges who have not been forced to retire.
    Nor is there any reason to elect and pay for new judges to serve in their place when they are fully competent to perform their judicial duties.

The judges are on the bench in Philadelphia, Northampton and Westmoreland counties. For a look at the full court filing, go here.


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