Sunday, July 31, 2016

Confusing Wording on a Ballot Proposition?

As with some other states, Pennsylvania is debating whether to raise the maximum age for judges from 70 years to 75 years. On November 8, this proposition is scheduled to appear on the state election ballot:

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices of the Supreme Court, judges, and justices of the peace (known as magisterial district judges) be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years, instead of the current requirement that they be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 70?

Two retired state Supreme Court justices and a prominent lawyer have sued to prevent this proposition from appearing on the ballot, arguing that it "deceitful." The Philadelphia Inquirer explains:

The reworded question asks only whether judges should be required to retire at 75, not mentioning that they are already required to retire at 70. The new wording might produce an outcome different from the invalidated vote in April, when a slight majority said "no" to raising the retirement age.

Of course, since we are in Pennsylvania, there’s politics involved. Some argue that the language is the result of Republicans and some Democrats who want to keep on the court the Republican chief justice who is about to turn 70. His successor will be a Democrat. (in Pennsylvania, judges are elected—a method that has failed to work in Pennsylvania, IMHO).

The high court has given the secretary of state until next Wednesday, August 3, to respond. An interesting word-parsing question to propose to students. But for us who live here, more discouragement over the politics in our judicial system.

The Philadelphia Inquirer offers more background here, here, and here.


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