[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that Pennsylvania’s mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges is constitutional. A group of four judges from across the state, including Judges Benjamin Lerner and John Herron of Philadelphia, Leonard Zito of Northampton County and Gerald Solomon of Fayette County, appealed to the Third Circuit after the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website] ruled that the mandatory retirement age provision does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of Fourteenth Amendment [text] of the US Constitution. Article V, section 16(b) of the Pennsylvania Constitution [text] states “Justices, judges and justices of the peace shall be retired upon attaining the age of seventy years.” Zito will be forced to retire [Lehigh Valley report] by the end of the year as a result of the decision.
Judges have challenged the mandatory retirement age in Pennsylvania for almost two years. In November of 2012 six Pennsylvania judges filed suit [JURIST report] against the Commonwealth, arguing the 1968 amendment which created the mandatory retirement age for judges was unconstitutional and it no longer furthers a legitimate state interest. In June the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania [official website] upheld [JURIST report] the mandatory retirement provision for judicial officers. The debate over retirement age legislation is a issue of government concern internationally as well. Two weeks ago, the EU Commissioner of Justice Viviane Reding [official website] spoke out [JURIST report] against Hungary’s failure to reinstate judges and prosecutors who had been forced into early retirement. In November 2012 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) struck down [JURIST report] a Hungarian law that lowered the age of retirement for judges and prosecutors from 70 to 62. In recent months, Hungary has taken steps towards changing its policy on forced retirement but has yet to reinstate those who have been forced out of their jobs. Reding urged Hungary to take immediate action to comply with the ECJ ruling and reinstate anyone who was forced into retirement.