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Lawmakers review mandatory retirement for Pennsylvania judges

State lawmakers are reevaluating the mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges in Pennsylvania courts. This age limit was set many years ago when there was concern about judges resisting retirement even though they may be less physically or mentally fit for the job. Lawmakers advocating to raise the retirement age to 75 or eliminate it entirely say that improvements in healthcare and longer lifespans make precise age limits less relevant.

This debate brings up important issues about age discrimination, since the mandatory retirement age seems to have been arbitrarily decided when it was initially enacted. A lawmaker who is sponsoring a bill in the House of Representatives to raise the retirement age says that age lone is not "a fair way to judge a person's fitness for a job." This sentiment echoes the justification behind anti-discrimination laws that protect people from being fired or denied a job simply because of their age.

There are four judges on the state supreme court who would be subject to the mandatory retirement requirement over the next five years. Lawmakers say that the move to raise the retirement age or eliminate it is not an attempt to allow those specific judges to stay on the court. Rather, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee says that lawmakers are dually concerned about judges resisting retirement when the time is right as well as the possibility that judges who are highly competent public servants might be forced into early retirement.

What do you think - is the mandatory retirement age for judges in Pennsylvania a form of age discrimination?

Source: The Legal Intelligencer, "Bills target Pa. judges' compulsory retirement at age 70," Amaris Elliot-Engel, Feb. 4, 2013.

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