Judge of the Day, Judicial Divas, Old People, Politics, State Judges

How Old Can Your Judges Be? Decide Today In New York.

It’s Election Day today. Go vote. Go vote now, or make sure you go before the polls close. Whatever you are doing today isn’t as important as participating in your community. Sorry there’s no “president” on the ballot. Instead it’s just a bunch of local officials and local issues that affect your day-to-day life way more than the President of the United States. GO VOTE.

In New York, we’re going to elect a new mayor, I can only hope that Mike Bloomberg actually allows the new guy to take office.

But if you are going to vote in New York, make sure you flip the ballot over and vote on all the propositions. There are some fun things there: should we institute the regressive, idiot tax that is opening a casino? I say yes! We need money and regressive, idiot taxes are the only ones you can pass in this environment.

Gothamist has a good breakdown of all the New York ballot issues. But the one that’s most legally interesting is Proposition 6: raising the mandatory retirement age for judges to 80.

Eighty! That’s having somebody decide the latest issues in eDiscovery who was alive for D-Day.

Of course, judges are in favor of this…

The New York Times broke down Proposition 6 last week:

On the surface, Proposition 6 is straightforward enough: It would raise the mandatory retirement age for State Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges to 80. Currently, the State Supreme Court, a trial-level court, requires justices to leave at age 76; the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, has a cutoff at 70. If passed, extra judges would be available to ease overcrowded courts.

But nothing in the politics of the judiciary is ever simple.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has argued forcefully and repeatedly that the measure…

“It’s an anachronism in the year 2013 to have a constitutional presumption of senility at age 70,” Judge Lippman said in an interview. “To me, it’s bad public policy. It’s bad for the courts. It’s bad for the public to make experienced judges leave the bench when they are at the top of their game.”

Do I have to let him go? Lippman makes the argument of every aging Boomer: I’m still fit! 80 is the new 50! I’M STILL USEFUL, DAMNIT! You want me on that wall, you need me on that wall!

Thing is, I have no doubt that some 75-year-olds are still useful members of the judiciary. But there are two big problems that Boomers have trouble understanding:

  • Younger people are useful too. Old people don’t just act like they’re useful, they act like they’re indispensable. This is my entire problem with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I love her, I think she’s great. But she’s not the only person who can do her job. She’s just not. Other people, younger people, can also bring something to the Court, and it’s fundamentally selfish for her to hold the entire progressive agenda hostage to her battle with time.
  • Some old people ARE NOT still mentally fit. But they all think they are. How do we tell these people that they are too old to chew the leather? Lippman has no real plan for effectively weeding out old judges who are losing it, at least until they show such a horrible pattern of mental degradation that it becomes obvious to all. Having a hardline rule is the easiest way to free our judiciary from the ravages of time.

Eventually, everybody will get too old to do their jobs. That’s science! But we can’t really know when somebody loses their skills until it’s too late. Judges who support Proposition 6 want individual jurists to be the arbiter of their own mental acuity, but an aging judge is probably in the worst position to asses their own declining abilities. A bright-line rule might be unfair to some, but it protects us all.

But of course, old people are the ones who go to vote. So they get to decide how exactly to design laws to block the growth of younger people. So go vote today. Go vote now.

Ballot Measure on Judicial Retirement Age Is Said to Divide Cuomo and Top Judge [New York Times]
Voting Tuesday? There’s More On The Ballot Besides De Blasio [Gothamist]

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