Election 2016: 32 states impose some form of mandatory retirement age on most or all of their judges; voters may raise (PA) or repeal (OR) their ages

Two states will be voting next week on whether or not to change their mandatory judicial retirement ages. Pennsylvania voters will be deciding whether to raise their age from end-of-the-year-turn-70 to end-of-the-year-turn-75. Oregon is deciding on whether or not to simply repeal the provision in the state’s constitution allowing for a mandatory retirement age at all; the state currently requires retirement at 75.

Pennsylvania’s mandatory age of 70 is consistent with the practice in many other states. All told, some 32 states have a general mandatory judicial retirement age. At the appellate level, it is fairly straightforward: the majority of states (21) set 70 as the age, however some states allow a judge to serve out the term or the year in which they reach the threshold age.

At the trial court level, things become somewhat murkier. For example, in at least 8 states with mandatory retirement ages for higher courts (appellate, general jurisdiction trial) some or all of the state’s lower court judges are exempt. For example, in South Carolina appellate and trial judges generally must retire at age 72, but Probate and Municipal Judges have no specific mandatory retirement age. Georgia, on the other hand, has the opposite situation: there is no mandatory retirement age for their top courts but some Municipal Courts have imposed mandatory retirement ages on their judges.

The table below gives the general overview of retirement ages, detailed state by state analysis based on court type and other particulars below the fold.

Age # of States States
70 20 Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, Wyoming
72 4 Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, South Carolina
73 1 Virginia
74 1 District of Columbia, Texas
75 5 Indiana, Kansas, Oregon, Utah, Washington
90 1 Vermont
None 18 California, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois*, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin

*Illinois statute struck down as unconstitutional but never formally repealed

State Appellate Trial Constitution or Statute Notes
Alabama 70 70 Constitution: Art. VI, Sec. 155 (Amended), Amendment 328 May not be elected or appointed after 70.
Alaska 70 70 Constitution: Art. IV, Sec. 11
Arizona 70 70/Varies Constitution: Art. VI, Secs. 20 & 39 Municipal courts: Varies
Arkansas 70 70 Arkansas law does not specify a retirement age for judges, however a judge that fails to resign at the end of the term in which they reach 70 forfeits all pension/retirement benefits. See Arkansas Code § 24-8-215(c)
Colorado 72 72 Constitution: Art. VI, Sec. 23
Connecticut 70 70 Constitution: Art. V, Sec. 6
District of Columbia 74 74 Statute: 1-204.31(c)
Florida 70 70 Constitution: Art. V, Sec. 8 May complete term if more than 50% of it has been served at age 70.
Georgia Some but not all Municipal courts have mandatory retirement ages.
Hawaii 70 70 Constitution: Art. VI, Sec. 3
Illinois * * Constitution: Art. 6, Sec. 15
Statute: 705 ILCS 55/1*
May serve out term in which turns 75. Statute was declared by the Supreme Court of Illinois to be unconstitutional, as written, because the Act violated the doctrine of equal protection. See: Maddux v. Blagojevich, 233 Ill. 2d 508 (2009).
Indiana 75 Statute: IC 33-38-13-8
Iowa 72 72 Statute: 602.1610
Kansas 75 75 Statute: 20-2608(a) May serve out term in which turns 75.
Louisiana 70 70/None Constitution: Art. V, Sec. 23 May serve out term in which turns 70. Mayors’ court judges have no age limit.
Maryland 70 70/None Constitution: Art. IV, Sec. 3 Orphan’s Court judges have no mandatory retirement age.
Massachusetts 70 70 Constitution: Art. 1, Part 2, Ch. 3
Michigan 70 70 Constitution: Art. VI, Sec. 19 May not be elected or appointed after 70.
Minnesota 70 70 Constitution: Art. 6, Sec. 9
Statute: 490.121(21d) & 490.125
May serve to end of month turns 70.
Missouri 70 70/75 Constitution: Art. V, Sec. 26
Statute: 479.020(7)
70 for Circuit Court, 75 for Municipal Court.
New Hampshire 70 70 Constitution: Art. 78
New Jersey 70 70 Constitution: Art. XI, Sec. IV
New Mexico
New York 70 70/None Constitution: Art. VI, Sec. 25 Generally: May serve until end of year in which 70 is reached. Town/Village: No age limit.
North Carolina 72 72 Constitution: Art. IV, Sec. 6
Statute: 7A-4.20
May serve to end of month turns 72.
North Dakota
Ohio 70 70/None Constitution: Art. IV, Sec. 6 Section interpreted as meaning may serve until end of term turns 70. Mayors’ court judges have no age limit.
Oregon 75 75 Constitution: Art. VII (Amended), Sec. 1a Constitution allows age to be reduced to as low as 70 by statute or initiative.
Pennsylvania 70 70 Constitution: Art. V, Sec. 16 May serve until end of year in which 70 is reached.
Rhode Island
South Carolina 72 72/None Statute: 9-8-40 & 9-8-60 No limit for Probate or Municipal Courts.
South Dakota 70 70 Statute: 16-1-4.1 May serve into the January after attaining age 70.
Texas 74 74/None Constitution: Art. 5, Sec. 1-a Legislature may set at any age from 70 to 75. District & Criminal District Court: May serve out term in which turns 75 if completed at least 4 years of 6 year term. Municipal: Varies. All other trial courts: No limit.
Utah 75 75 Constitution: Art. VIII, Sec. 15
Statute: 49-18-701
Vermont 90 90 Constitution: Sec. 35
Statute: 4-609
Legislature may set anywhere from end of the calendar year in which judge attains 70 to end of the term when judge attains 90. Legislature has opted for end of year attain 90.
Virginia 73 73 Constitution: Art. VI, Sec. 9
Statute: 51.1-305(B1)
May serve until 20 days after the convening of the next regular session of the General Assembly.
Washington 75 75 Constitution: Art. IV, Sec. 3(a) May serve until end of year in which 75 is reached.
West Virginia
Wyoming 70 70/None Constitution: Art. 5, Sec. 5 District: 70 Circuit & Municipal: None