Monday, June 17, 2013

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Mandatory Retirement

A unanimous Pennsylvania Supreme Court has rejected a constitutional challenge to the mandate that judges retire in the year in which they turn 70, reported The Legal Intelligencer.

Justice Thomas G. Saylor, writing for the majority, said “there is colorable merit” to the judicial plaintiffs’ argument that a constitutional amendment might impinge on inalienable rights that are also recognized in the state constitution. But, Saylor continued, “We do not believe that the charter’s framers regarded an immutable ability to continue in public service as a commissioned judge beyond 70 years of age as being within the scope of the inherent rights of mankind.”

The court applied rational-basis scrutiny to the constitutional challenges on equal protection and due process grounds.

The lawsuits have been remanded to Commonwealth Court for that intermediate appellate court to dismiss the complaints with prejudice and enter judgment in favor of the commonwealth.

Justice J. Michael Eakin, who wrote a concurrence in which Justices Debra Todd and Seamus P. McCaffery joined, said that the mandatory retirement has another salutary purpose: establishing a “temporal limit on judicial service, regardless of past or current perceptions of one’s ability to perform competently beyond any given age.”

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