Florida bill would raise mandatory judicial retirement age, but as in past efforts there’s a catch

Earlier this week I noted several states that are trying to raise or eliminate the state’s mandatory judicial age. Florida may well be added to the list, but the plan in that state has a catch.

Currently, Florida judges must retire at age 70, but may serve out the term in which they turn 70 if they’ve already completed at least half of the term. Constitutional amendments HB 747SJR 570 would raise the age from 70 to 75, but only for judges elected or appointed after January 1, 2014.

Florida’s legislature has a history of offering up increases to the state’s mandatory retirement age with a catch (or two).

1996: One major wave of activity was in 1996. HJR 1415 and SJR 978 of that year would have allowed the legislature to increase the age to 72 (House) or any age (Senate), but would have also altered both the state’s merit selection system and  judicial qualifications commission membership and procedures. A version without the increase to the retirement age but allowing the merit selection commission to recommend up  to 6 people to the governor (rather than 3) went onto the ballot as Amendment 3. In addition, SJR 578 of the same year would have increase the age from 70 to 72 outright, but merged the state’s County Courts into the Circuit Courts.

2002: The next wave of activity again focused on tying the increase in age to changes to the merit selection system. HB 1465 and the similar HB 567 eliminated the retirement age, but ended merit selection for the state’s supreme court. SB 162 would also have eliminated the mandatory retirement age, but at the cost of ending merit selection altogether. SB 162 was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee but died in the Senate Rules Committee.

2012: The latest wave of activity started last year with two bills. HJR 345 would have raised the age from 70 to 75. SJR 408 as introduced would have done the same but was committee amended to apply only for judges elected or appointed after a certain date (January 1, 2013 in that case). SJR 408 was approved by the full Senate but died in the House.