Pennsylvania judges challenge mandatory retirement

Pennsylvania judges challenge mandatory retirement

Photo source or description

[JURIST] Six Pennsylvania judges filed suit [complaint, PDF] challenging a section of the state constitution [text] which requires all justices and judges of Pennsylvania to retire at the end of the calendar year in which they reach the age of 70. The plaintiffs argue that this requirement is in violation of the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment [text]. In the complaint, the plaintiffs explained:

The mandatory retirement provision (i) is not rationally related to furthering a legitimate state interest, (ii) does not further an important government interest in a way that is substantially related to that interest, and/or (iii) is not narrowly tailored and/or the least restrictive means to furthering a compelling government interest. The mandatory retirement provision of the Pennsylvania Constitution discriminates against persons aged seventy and older, and thus violates Plaintiff’s equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The complaint asks the court to find the constitutional provision unenforceable and to restore the position of Pennsylvania Senior Judge Benjamin Lerner.

The US Supreme Court has previously considered the merits of a challenge to mandatory retirement provisions of a state constitution. In Gregory v. Ashcroft [opinion], Missouri state court judges challenged a mandatory retirement provision in the state constitution, but the Supreme Court held that the provision did not violate equal protection. Mandatory retirement laws have been considered in European courts of law as well. Earlier this month the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official site] struck down [JURIST report] a law which would have lowered the mandatory retirement age for judges in Hungary from 70 to 62, stating the law was not proportionate to the objectives Hungary was pursing. In 2009 the ECJ ruled that the UK’s mandatory retirement laws were not discriminatory [JURIST report], stating age-based classifications are justifiable in some circumstances. The ECJ also ruled in 2007 that the EU’s mandatory retirement policies [JURIST report] did not violate the prohibition against age discrimination if the policy is intended to further the legitimate public interest of increasing employment and the retirees are provided with full pensions.