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Resolution introduced to get rid of age limit for Michigan judges

Feb 22, 2017

Michigan could have some older judges on the bench if a measure in Lansing moves ahead.

A recently introduced resolution to eliminate the age limit for Michigan judges got a hearing this week before the House Judiciary Committee. 

Right now, the Michigan Constitution says nobody can be elected or appointed judge after reaching the age of 70.

If the resolution passes by a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the state Legislature, voters would decide at the next general election whether to amend the Constitution to get rid of the age ceiling.

"To force retirement on people that have a wealth of knowledge is not the fair thing to do," said State Rep. Hank Vaupel, R-Handy Township. "It is a form of age discrimination."

"This is the only office in Michigan that has age requirements," said Macomb County District Judge Denis LeDuc, who supports the resolution.

LeDuc said the age limit wastes valuable judicial talent.

He said the rule goes back to 1908 when life expectancy was about 50 years.

Bruce Timmons, who testified in support of the current age ceiling, says it acts like a term limit and encourages healthy turnover in the judiciary which is important given the historic reluctance to challenge incumbent judges.

According to the State Court Administrative Office, 94 incumbent judges will be ineligible to run for reelection when their current terms expire because of the constitutional age restriction.

The non-partisan House Fiscal Agency says at least 16 states have no mandatory retirement age for judges and Michigan is one of 18 states with a mandatory retirement age of 70.