The judges retirement

Judges are supposed to solve cases that are brought before the courts they preside over, whether such cases are civil or criminal in nature. By such standards, judges are supposed to be decisive something which seems to lack when it comes to determining how long they think their job should last. The question of when a judge should retire or more specific should the given age be raised to 75 is not properly answered in most states, in fact, a uniform number seem to be difficult to arrive at.

By retirement in this essay, I mean mandatory retirement, that is, a compulsory age at which a given judge has to retire. This is the United States seem to vary with some states having no specific age, for instance, Oklahoma, and others going as high as 90 Vermont being an example. In Sousa v. Sousa, the judges concurred with the retirement agreement age.

The issue of retirement of judges seem to be a debate on a global level. In the United Kingdom, for example, Gregory v. Ashcroft, judges including municipal should retire at the age of seventy years. The parliament through its act, judicial pension and retirement act 1993 which seem to expand on previously enacted judicial pension act 1959 is of the decision that ordinary retirement should be at age 70. The act, however, allows for judges appointed before 1995 to hold office until they are of the age 75.

This seems to suggest that they intend for the mandatory retirement age to be left at age 70. In India, the argument is a bit different.Supreme Court judges are required to retire at the age of 65 while high court judges will do so at the age of 62 and the government seems to have taken a firm stand on this

What seem to be the issue here on might ask. Is the issue age of retirement or simply self-preservation?

Arguments against raising the age of retirement

According to Joel Cohen, a former prosecutor in the United States of America and also the author of Blinds Off Judges on How They Decide, age seem to be an issue and the high the retirement age the more challenging the issue seems to be. In fact “Is there a point where age risks catching up with judges or justices, and the public may be better served by calling time?

While some judges are capable of performing effectively past the age of 70, “Most defined benefit pension plans offer normal retirement annuity benefits based on a normal retirement age of 65”this is evidenced in the retirement committee of Dak Americas LLC V. Brewer the same cannot be said about all judges at or even beyond this age. Some of the issues that arise with increased age retirement are that some judges may become so closed minded in there a way of doing things or simply slow since this is what happens with age.

In New York, a referendum to increase the mandatory age of retirement was voted against in 2013. So of the reason cited against the increase were that such move would make it difficult to have black and Hispanic judges appointed in lower courts other reasons cited were purely political mostly from county political bosses.

In some states such as Louisiana, the move to increase the age was simply termed as unconstitutional and voted against by 62.31% in this case the age was to be moved from 70 to 75. While there are a number of reasons given for voting against increasing the retirement age, it often comes down to the ability of a judge to still effectively perform at that age.

By failing to increase the retirement age and in fact enforcing the current age what we are doing is giving you legal practitioners an opportunity to achieve the potential in such judicial position while still at the prime of their professional capacity having no suffered the limitations that come with declining health.

In career such as judges, there are always fixed numbers per given position. This, therefore, makes it harder for others who have similar ambitions. An easier solution is to introduce judicial tenure especially in the United States where we have life tenure when it comes to judges or introduces mandatory retirement age. What this will do is facilitate more judicial appointment to the mass number of legal practitioners.

In VAA v State, the argument of giving younger people an opportunity is often taken as discrimination but the reality is that older judge had all the opportunity for progression and advancement while they were young something which should be put into consideration when talking about retirement age.

The other risk attached to older judges is that they may end up clinging to their outdated values and assumptions and this tends to be the basis upon which they make decisions and rulings. Going by this if we allow for judicial turnover, which is the natural consequence of not increasing the retirement age, the result is fresh ideas in judicial decision-making and new ways of interpreting precedents

Arguments for increasing the retirement age

As we have already seen the move to increase the retirement age in New York in 2013, did not succeed. One of the persons who suffered a major blow was Judge Lippman, who was appointed by the former Gov. David A. Paterson. “I am disappointed,” Judge Lippman said after the results came in. “We were unable to get a consistent message across that people should be judged on their ability to do the job and not on some outdated conceptions of age.”

The question of one’s ability to perform at this age is often given the answer that there is modern technology that enhances life, which wasn’t back then when laws regarding retirement were based on life expectancy

In Texas the people voted in 2007 to allow judges to retire at 75. The Texas Justice Retirement Age Amendment, also referred to as Proposition 14 was passed by 75% of the voters who believed that such was an ok age and that in so doing it would allow judges to best serve the term as long as they can still do their job, the same as in the case of Chin V Merriot In United Kingdom Lord Philips made it clear to the financial times that he was lobbying for the rise of the retirement age to 75. According to him, it seems that at 70 a judge is still very much at his prime hence should not be forced to retire at such said age.

In his defense for the increase of the age to 75, Lord Neuberger was an opinion that such an increase will help solve the judicial recruitment problem. The problem I would seem is that in order to get the first-class applicant for top judges qualification, they will often be older and unless the age is increased there won’t be much motivation to apply for such position. This appeared to be Lord Neuberger’s point of view regarding the matter.

Another reason in support of the increase in retirement age is that courts tend to lose outstanding jurists with the capacity to contribute more to the development of law. In reality, there doesn’t seem to be any clear logic behind the age of 75 to be retirement age. There exists a number of hardworking and energetic judges who are in their late 60s and have even greater ability for work as opposed to their colleagues who are in their 50s. However, the age of 75 can be justified, putting into account the average life expectancy due to medical advancements

This increase will mean that judges are motivated to stay longer in offices rather than retire just to embark on other careers. Such as we have seen may have a negative impact on the said offices especially if the said judgment was one of the effective ones.

Of course, if the judge is ineffective we do not have to wait for such to retire. The constitution clearly gives clearly guide to removal of a judge from office.

By increasing the age of retirement we end up saving taxpayers money. This occurs in two ways, the first being the cost of replacement of a judge will have to be deferred by the given increase of years and the second is we don’t pay the pension. So the pension money is saved as long as that particular judge is in office, unlike if replaced in which case we pay both pension and the salary of the new judge who replaced such.

There obviously has been an increasing interest in mandatory judicial retirement ages. This can be seen by the number of states that have taken to ballot boxes to contend on such matters. In as much as the average life expectancy of the population is increasing due to modern medicine and scientific innovations allowing for people to remain active even in their old age retirement is still an issue to contend with in judicial offices. While most states try to deal with such matters at legislation level, it often comes down to ballots boxes.

There are good reasons for increasing the retirement age. Am talking about things such as, increase in life expectancy and vitality which raise question as to the validity of retirement ages that were set centuries ago, the fact that age is not the only way to get rid of a judge from office and that we should stop acting as is it’s the only way, and also its seem counter-productive especially when we have heads of states older than 70 and yet they are holding office. The downside of increasing age is that first of all there is no evidence that mandatory judicial retirement is going to harm judiciary. Second by allowing for mandatory retirement the judiciary benefits from new ideas that the incoming judges bring to it and third one in most instances this extension of terms seem to only benefit upper-level judges and yet it is in lower levels that a vast number of judges tend to exist

Based on this argument it seems far not to increase the retirement age. For starters in as much as life expectancy increase that only solves the problem of death and not the issue to do with being as smart as a whip which is one of those analogies used to express what is expected of judges in the execution of their duties.

The argument about the cost of replacing a judge and saving on pension cannot be compared to the cost of such judge, whose career some seem to be so determined on saving, giving a bad ruling in a given case simply because of being out of touch with trends or even making conservative decision on matters that would have required on to be liberal and that could most certainly be the case when dealing with older judges who have preconceived notions about certain subjects.

Having the retirement age at such higher number may seem like a motivation but going by current trends people don’t really look at working in your 70s as something that is appealing as it was in the 20th century the problem then is that we may not even have young legal practitioners being interested in such position There is the issue of public perception whenever we have judges who seem to be too old to be office and yet they are in office. In the state of Vermont where the retirement age is 90, this raises a lot of questions as to the effectiveness of a judge who is at that age.

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