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Friday, March 13, 2009

Ruth Bader Ginsburg hints at upcoming US Supreme Court opening

US Supreme Court justice Rith Bader Ginsburg told law students today the US Supreme Court will surely have a new justice on the high court soon.

The ailing 75 year old Ginsburg will perhaps retire. But since the US Constitution does not impose term limits on US Supreme Court justices or a mandatory retirement age, US Supreme Court justices typically serve until nearly the end of their lives, notwithstanding serious health problems.

Virginia has a mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges. The problem is that VA judges can retire and then go back to work! Yes, that's right, they "retire" then serve as substitute judges in their twilight years. Case in point, Jean Harrison Clements recently retired from the Court of Appeals of VA, yet she intends to continue serving as a judge pro tempore.

First, from an economic standpoint alone, this hurts the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Virginia since these "retired" judges work in retirement adds pensionable earnings to their retirement pensions. In other words, since a pension is based principally upon the annuitant's age and years of service, adding more service at an old age can be quite lucrative for older judges. And the corollary is, the additional pension benefits these old judges accrue are quite costly to Virginia taxpayers, who ultimately fund the state's pension system for employees.

Second, statistics show that nearly half of all people age 80 (and many in their 70's for that matter) have dementia. Do we really want folks who may be losing (or who have already lost) their mental faculties hearing important cases? If your judge could not remember what he ate for breakfast, do you think he could recall detailed legal arguments and facts of cases?

News flash: Virginia has a massive budget deficit. And the US economy is in a deep recession.
Why are we making poor financial decisions that only benefit old judges?

Virginia should make age 70 a truly mandatory retirement age and not allow judges to serve in any capacity beyond age 70.

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