Raleigh’s News & Observer has re-posted an editorial this morning that recently ran in its McClatchy sibling in Charlotte that deserves to be spread far and wide. It’s central message: North Carolina’s law mandating that judges retire at age 72 (the one that force current Supreme Court Justice Sarah Parker to retire this weekend) is ridiculous, out-dated and needs to be retired itself. Here is the excellent conclusion
Thirty-three states require the compulsory retirement of judges, with most setting an age limit between 70 and 75. Some of those laws were written to avoid lifetime tenure in states where judges don’t face re-election challenges. Some were written to ensure that the courts have a vigorous judiciary. (If North Carolina must have an age limit, we suggest a look at Vermont, which doesn’t force the gold watch on its judges until they hit 90. Now that’s some long-lasting vigor.)
The best approach: Lose the age limit. Federal judges don’t have one. Neither does any branch of government. Mandatory retirement is unnecessary and discriminatory. It’s also costly – North Carolina has to pay retirement benefits to a perfectly good judge, then pay another judge to take his or her place.
The bigger cost, however, is the experience and wisdom that leave the bench when judges are forced to retire. Let judges – and the people who elect them – determine when it’s time to go.