Changes to mandatory judicial retirement ages: Virginia plan may fall apart over what judges get the increase; Oregon Senate unanimously approves repeal; dead in Maryland; small change moving in North Carolina; debated in Massachusetts

Since last month’s update on the subject of mandatory judicial retirement age changes there’s been several developments. The biggest stumbling block: which judges should get the increase in the age?

Maryland

The Senate approved 47-0 a plan (SB 847) to increase the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 73 (original bill called for 75) on March 24. The Senate plan would have applied to all judges after adoption of the amendment. The House, however, had various ideas on how this would impact current judges. The House Judiciary Committee approved amendment 172916/1 which would have allowed any judge that

reaches the age of seventy years before the date that the judge is eligible to be elected, appointed, or reappointed

to stay on to 73 or the end of their current term with the consent of the governor. A later floor amendment (393229/1) added the word “re-elected”

reaches the age of seventy years before the date that the judge is eligible to be elected, re-elected, appointed, or reappointed

The changes occurred on April 9, just days before the legislature adjourned sine die. As a result, the effort failed this year.

Massachusetts

The judges of Massachusetts only fell under the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age in the 1970s (Amendment LVII adopted in 1972)

[U]pon attaining seventy years of age said judges shall be retired.

Starting in 2009 there have been efforts to increase this age to 76. The first two attempts (HB 1640 of 2009/2010 & HB 1826 of 2011/2012) were approved by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary but proceeded no further. HB 68 of 2013/2014 saw rejection by the committee. The bill is now back up as HB 1609 of 2015/2016 and was heard before the Joint Committee on April 15.

North Carolina

The House approved 116-0 on March 25 a bill that would provide a minimal extension to the state’s judicial retirement age. Currently judges must retire on the last day of the month in which they reach 72. Under HB 50 as approved they may serve last day of the year they reach 72.

A counter proposal (HB 205) to extend this to the last day of the year they reach 75. Was approved by the House Judiciary IV committee on March 18 but has remained in locked up in the House Pensions and Retirement committee.

Oregon

On April 15 the Oregon Senate approved 30-0 a plan to eliminate the state’s mandatory retirement age or, to be more precise, repeal the state constitutional provision allowing the legislature to set such an age. SJR 4 would eliminate language from the state constitution that

[A] judge of any court shall retire from judicial office at the end of the calendar year in which he attains the age of 75 years. The Legislative Assembly or the people may by law: Fix a lesser age for mandatory retirement not earlier than the end of the calendar year in which the judge attains the age of 70 years.

The constitutional amendment is now pending on the House Speaker’s desk awaiting committee assignment.

Virginia

After 9 years of trying, a plan to increase the retirement age for at least some judges in Virginia passed the House and Senate, but the decision to increase for some judges and not others may result in a veto by the governor.

At issue under HB 1984 and SB 1196 was what judges should get the increase from 70 to 73. The House/Senate compromise approved provided that

  • all appellate judges effective July 1, 2015 would get the increase to 73
  • trial judges elected or appointed after July 1, 2015 would get the increase to 73
  • trial judges elected or appointed prior to July 1, 2015 would still have to retire at 70

The governor, however, issued a “recommendation” to eliminate the three-tired plan (Virginia governors can return a bill without a veto to the legislature “with recommendations for their amendment“). The Senate voted in favor of eliminating the three-tired plan 31-8. The House rejected it 27-63. Local media reports indicate the unamended bill will now go back to the Governor as early as today (Friday) for him to sign or veto.

Legislation Provisions Status
Alabama HB 15 (Constitutional Amendment) ORIGINAL: Increase maximum age for election or appointment to judicial office to 75 years. AS AMENDED: Increase to 72. Approved by full House 3/17/15.
Alabama SB 15 (Constitutional Amendment) Increase maximum age for election or appointment to judicial office to 75 years. In Senate Finance Committee.
Arkansas HB 1202 Provides judges may serve in office until 72 (currently 70) without forfeiting retirement benefits. Approved by Joint Public Retirement Committee 3/16/15. Rejected 49-21-28 not voting-2 voting present (51 yeas required) by full House 3/17/15.
Indiana SB 12 Requires justices of the supreme court and judges of the court of appeals to retire at 80 years of age (currently must retire at 75). Approved by full Senate 1/29/15.
Maryland SB 847 (Constitutional Amendment) ORIGINAL: Increases mandatory judicial retirement age from 70 to 75. SENATE AMENDED: Increases to 73. HOUSE AMENDED: Judges approaching age 70 must receive governor’s approval for additional 3 years. Approved by full Senate with Senate amendment 3/24/15. Died when House adjourned.
Massachusetts HB 1609 (Constitutional Amendment) Increases mandatory judicial retirement age from 70 to 76. In Joint Judiciary Committee. Hearing held 4/15/15.
Minnesota HB 1332 Allows judge to serve out term in which reaches 70 (currently can only serve to end of month). In House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee.
Minnesota SB 1258 Allows judge to serve out term in which reaches 70 (currently can only serve to end of month). In Senate Judiciary Committee
New Jersey ACR 129 (Constitutional Amendment) Increases mandatory judicial retirement age from 70 to 75. Approved by Pension and Health Benefits Commission 6/6/14. Carried over into 2015 session.
New Jersey ACR 150 (Constitutional Amendment) Increases mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 72. In Assembly Judiciary Committee. Carried over into 2015 session.
New Jersey ACR 186 (Constitutional Amendment) Increases mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court and Superior Court from 70 to 75. AMENDED: Increase applies to Superior Court only. Approved as amended by Assembly Judiciary Committee 9/22/14. Approved by Pension and Health Benefits Commission 1/30/15. Carried over into 2015 session.
New Jersey SCR 148 (Constitutional Amendment) Increases mandatory retirement age for Superior Court only from 70 to 75. In Senate Judiciary Committee. Carried over into 2015 session.
North Carolina HB 50 Increases mandatory retirement age from end of month turns 72 to end of year turns 72. Approved by full House 3/25/15.
North Carolina HB 205 Increases mandatory retirement age from end of month turns 72 to end of year turns 75. Approved by House Judiciary IV Committee 3/18/15.
North Carolina HB 214 Increases mandatory retirement age from end of month turns 72 to end of month turns 75. In House Rules Committee
Oregon SJR 4 (Constitutional Amendment) Repeals provision allowing for the establishment of a mandatory retirement age. Approved by full Senate 4/15/15.
Pennsylvania HB 90 (Constitutional Amendment) Increases mandatory judicial retirement age from 70 to 75. (Second adoption. Approved by 2013/2014 session). Approved by full House 2/10/15. Approved by Senate Judiciary Committee 2/17/15.
Pennsylvania SB 207 (Constitutional Amendment) Increases mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75. (Second adoption. Approved by 2013/2014 session). In Senate Judiciary Committee
Pennsylvania SB 337 (Constitutional Amendment) Increases mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75. (Second adoption. Approved by 2013/2014 session). In Senate Judiciary Committee
South Carolina SB 316 Removes age limit above which a judge cannot join the judicial retirement system. Removes requirement that members of judicial retirement system retire by end of calendar year they turn 72. Removes mandatory retirement age for magistrates. In Senate Finance Committee.
Utah HB 137 ORIGINAL: Repeals the mandatory judicial retirement age. AMENDED: Increases mandatory retirement age from 75 to 80. Rejected by full House on 32-41 vote 2/27/2015.
Virginia HB 1984 AS AMENDED: Increases the mandatory retirement age of judges from 70 to 73. Applies to all appellate judges effective July 1, 2015. Applies to trial judges elected or appointed after July 1, 2015. Governor recommends increase apply to all judges. Senate approves 4/15/15. House rejects 4/15/15. Bill returned to governor for signature or veto.
Virginia SB 1196 Incorporated into HB 1984.
Virginia SB 1324 Incorporated into SB 1196.
Wyoming HJR 5 (Constitutional Amendment) ORIGINAL: Removes mandatory judicial retirement age of 70. AS AMENDED: Increases mandatory judicial retirement age from 70 to 75. Approved by full House 1/26/15. Rejected by Senate Appropriations Committee 2/23/15.