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The Daily Record's law news blog

Judges in other states seeking seats beyond 70

We’ve written about challenges to Maryland’s mandatory retirement age for judges. This legal dispute is not unique to Maryland, however; at least two of our sister papers have recently documented that judges in other states are trying to raise the retirement age from 70.

In Michigan, Judge Michael J. Theile has filed suit in federal court to be placed on the ballot in 2020, when he is 71, claiming the retirement age violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

“Judge Theile believes the 70-year-old age limitation in 2017 does not reflect the same realities as 1908 when Michigan adopted judicial age limitations,” said his lawyer told Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

The lawsuit alleges the age restriction creates two classes of individuals — one group under age 70 who can seek re-election and another age 70 and older that is “qualified but ineligible to run for re-election.”

The lawsuit also calls the age restriction as “perversely illogical” as Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act forbids age discrimination in the workplace, yet the restriction authorizes age discrimination in the branch of government charged with enforcing Elliott-Larsen.

In Minnesota, meanwhile, an district court judge who turns 70 in March tried to convince an appellate panel that “a 1973 statute which established the retirement age violates two provisions of the Minnesota Constitution.”

“This is one of the most important legal issues this court will ever preside over,” Judge Galen Vaa told the Court of Appeals, according to Minnesota Lawyer.

A trial court judge had thrown out the lawsuit, finding a 1956 amendment to the state constitution “authorized the establishment of an age-based compulsory retirement law.” But Vaa claimed the amendment was about benefits, not a retirement age.

The Minnesota Supreme Court, which is likely the next step in the lawsuit regardless who wins, has previously denied challenges to the retirement age, leading a lawyer for the state to tell the appellate panel that “all of the constitutional issues before you today are long decided.”

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