Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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Vote Yes on the Judicial Retirement Constitutional Amendment

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | October 17, 2016

No. 1,288

Two newspapers on the other side of the State have editorialized against the ballot initiative to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to raise the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75.  The principal reason why they are against this measure is that the ballot doesn’t state that the current retirement age is 70. Then, a few fluffy reasons are added to oppose the merit of the proposition.

But the truth is, there are plenty of excellent reasons to increase the retirement age for judges. The most important is that the Supreme Court regularly appoints senior judges to serve past age 70.  These judges serve on a per diem basis as needed.  The truth is is that they are usually needed.  And it is equally true that it takes longer these days to develop the expertise needed in specialized areas of the law.

Moreover, any lawyer who regularly appears in court will tell you that senior judges perform very well, primarily because they are the most experienced and frequently most knowledgeable members of the bench.  Increasing the tenure of judges would simply acknowledge the success of the senior judge program.

But the broader truth is that people in their seventies are healthier and live longer today than prior generations.  Mandatory retirement ages that were established in the past are  harder to defend.  We only deprive ourselves of the service of many of the most experienced individuals in the work force. This, of course, does not prevent voluntary retirement at any age.  But the choice should be made by the individual, not by an across-the-board rule.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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