By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This November election, New York voters will have an opportunity to decide whether or not state judges are allowed to remain on the bench past the age of 70.
The current rules governing judgeships mandate that judges must retire once they reach 70. Elected justices, however, are permitted to seek three extensions of two years each. These extensions thus allow justices to serve until they are 76, barring any physical or mental disabilities.
Unlike elected justices, judges who are appointed to the bench, such as judges on the Court of Appeals, are required to retire once they turn 70 years of age.
"The current requirement that certain judges must retire at 70 and others at 76 is an outdated rule that was created at a time when the life expectancy of the population was much lower than it is today," Hon. Barry Kamins, Brooklyn Supreme Court justice and administrative judge for criminal matters for the Second Judicial District, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
With advancements in medical technology and an awareness of diet and exercise, people are living longer lives. A report issued by the World Health Organization estimates that the life expectancy for individuals in high-income countries, such as the United States, is 80 years of age. United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired from the bench at the age of 90, mused to a Washington reporter that he "may have jumped the gun a little bit."
In January, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (D-Flatlands/Sheepshead Bay) sponsored an amendment to the New York State Constitution that would extend the judicial retirement age to 80.
The proposed amendment, titled “Increasing Age Until Which Certain State Judges Can Serve,” would allow Court of Appeals judges to remain on the bench until the age of 80 and grant state Supreme Court justices the opportunity to seek five, two-year term extensions past the age of 70.
"We have experienced and enthusiastic judges who are eager to remain on the bench and who could contribute so much to the court system," Kamins said. "They should not be forced to retire because of a rule that has no relevancy in the 21st century."