Two lawmakers have introduced separate bills in the state Legislature that would either eliminate the mandatory retirement for judges in the year in which they turn 70, or raise the mandatory retirement age to 75.
Each bill would amend the state constitution and have to be approved by the Legislature in two separate sessions. Before either measure could become a part of the state constitution, it would have to be adopted by Pennsylvania voters.
State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, is the prime sponsor of the Senate legislation. His bill would eliminate mandatory retirement altogether.
State Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery, is the prime sponsor of legislation in the House of Representatives. Her bill would raise the retirement age to 75.
According to Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, four Supreme Court justices will reach the mandatory retirement age within the next five years.
Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, who is up for retention this year, will have to retire at the end of 2014; Justice Thomas G. Saylor will have to retire at the end of 2016; Justice Max Baer, who also is up for retention this year, will have to retire at the end of 2017; and Justice J. Michael Eakin will have to retire at the end of 2018.
Ms. Harper said changing the mandatory retirement is not about allowing current members of the Supreme Court to stay on the bench, but instead about the overall value of the policy of keeping seasoned jurists on the bench or requiring them to retire.
With people leading longer, healthier lives, requiring judges to retire in the year that they turn 70 is a form of discrimination based on arbitrary physical characteristics and is "not a fair way to judge a person's fitness for a job," Ms. Harper said.
Mr. Greenleaf, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the age of 70 was set out of the concern that judges who become mentally or physically disabled as they age don't always retire.
"The age of 70 may be too early for many judges," Mr. Greenleaf said. "And we're looking at some very, very good judges [subject to] the retirement age and it's a blow to the court."
In a memorandum from December seeking co-sponsors, Mr. Greenleaf noted that under Article V, Section 18 of the state constitution, a justice or judge may be removed for 'mental or physical disability' making the age requirement redundant."