Pennsylvania law requires judges to retire at the age of 70 and then, often times, go on senior status. Senior status essentially allows judges to fill in as needed but is not provided a full staff. Judges in Pennsylvania are generally elected to ten (10) year terms, unless they are appointed for a vacancy.
The Pennsylvania legislature is currently considering increasing the retirement ages of judges to age 75 from age 70. This would require the passage of a constitutional amendment. In order to pass a constitutional amendment in Pennsylvania, it requires two (2) consecutive legislatures to approve the amendment and then the approval must be received from the voters through a ballot referendum.
The increase in age has already passed in a prior session in the House and the House once again approved it recently in a 154-44 vote. The provision will also have to pass the State Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the proposal 12 to 1 on February 17, 2014.
Should the provision pass both Houses, it will likely be placed on the ballot in November, or it could be placed on the ballot in 2016. In order to pass a constitutional amendment, it must be advertised for 3 months and, therefore, it would have to be approved by early August 2015.
Many Senior Judges continue to cover caseloads despite the fact that they do not receive full pay and the benefits of other Judges. However, local courts benefit from the Senior Judge’s service to relieve sitting Judges of caseloads. This is a particularly salient issue in light of increased life span.
Patberg Law Firm supports the legislature’s efforts to increase the retirement age to 75 so that litigants, lawyers and the court system can benefit from the many years of experience of the very fine Judges who are approaching age 70. Patberg Law Firm encourages voters to voice their opinion, whether it be in November 2015 or in 2016, regarding this particular issue.