Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Judges and Mandatory Retirement

Nine States Report Considering Changes to Mandatory Judicial Retirement Policies is an interesting April 15, 2010 New York Law Journal article (registration). Justice Stevens' retirement from the Supreme Court at age 90 just highlights how outdated state mandatory retirement laws are for judges.

Some of you might be thinking that the ADEA outlawed mandatory retirement. So how can judges be forced to retire at a certain age? The answer is quite simple. There is an exception in the ADEA for judges. For readers who may not be familiar, federal judges are appointed for life, but state judges are not. The article describes judge mandatory retirement rules in part as follows:

Twenty states now require retirement at age 70; four at 72; two at 74, and six at 75. Vermont is the only state with a mandatory retirement age of 90 for a state Supreme Court justice.

If applied to the U.S. Supreme Court, those states' retirement rules would force from the bench not only Justice Stevens, but also Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

In 2009, the center reported, Kansas increased the age at which their justices must retire to 75 from 70, and South Dakota's House of Representatives also approved an increase to 75 from 70.

Nine other states have recently considered or are considering legislation to increase or eliminate mandatory retirement, although none is apparently close to passage.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein


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