After 9 years of trying, Virginia judges could finally get increase in judicial retirement age from 70 to 73

Ninth time could be the charm for Virginia judges.

After 8 straight years of bills to increase or eliminate Virginia’s mandatory judicial retirement age of 70, both the Virginia House and Senate yesterday moved towards final approval of a plan to increase the age to 73. The full Senate gave its approval to SB 1196 on a 28-10, meeting the crossover day deadline by which time all Senate bills must be sent to the House.

Meanwhile the House agreed to engross an amendment to its version HB 1984. As introduced the bill would have allowed a judge reaching the age of 70 to remain until 73 or for another term if he or she was re-elected by legislature (Virginia is one of only two states in which the legislature is the sole electing/appointing authority for judges). That plan was scuttled in committee and replaced with a substitute identical to SB 1196 that simply raise the age from 70 to 73 without any conditions. The committee vote was 14-5. The House vote on engrossment was procedural; it remains to be seen if the full House will approve SB 1196 when it comes into that body.

The plan to increase judicial retirement ages was bogged down last year amid debate over restarting the state’s Judicial Performance Evaluation program. Several members of the General Assembly were not prepared to vote for an increase until the JPE program was in placed and funded. That occurred in the 2014 session, paving the way for this years’ votes.