Rep. Dan Bishop of Charlotte has filed a bill to change the law that forces judges to retire at age 72. But it's not the change that's needed.
Bishop, with three co-sponsors, filed a bill Wednesday that would have judges retire on Dec. 31 of the year they turn 72. Current law forces them to retire on the last day of the month in which they turn 72. So the bill would give judges one to 11 extra months before facing mandatory retirement.
That's fine as far as it goes. The change, we imagine, is designed to have a more orderly replacement for the retiring judge. The seat could be on the November ballot and avoid a long vacancy, an appointment, or a special election.
The bill fails, though, in that it does nothing to address the main problem: North Carolina arbitrarily forces outstanding judges into retirement even if they are as mentally and physically as strong as ever. Rather than tinkering with the precise retirement date, North Carolina needs to eliminate the mandatory retirement age of 72 altogether.
|Then-Justice Sarah Parker thanks a |
waitress at a retirement lunch last year.
The law took effect in 1971, when life expectancies and abilities after age 70 were quite different from today. Working at a high level past age 72 is now common in many fields. Federal judges, by comparison, face no mandatory retirement age. And it's costly: the retiring judge gets a healthy pension while the state pays another judge to take the seat.
As we said in August, "The bigger cost, however, is the experience and wisdom that leave the bench when judges are forced to retire. Let judges -- and the people who elect them -- determine when it's time to go."
Bishop should upgrade his bill by amending it to abolish the age-72 requirement, not just push the retirement off a few months.
-- Taylor Batten