Bill resurrects judge retirement issue
Two years after voters rejected a proposal to eliminate the mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges, a similar measure is working its way through the Legislature.
The new proposal, Senate Bill 3202, would let voters decide whether the mandatory retirement age should be raised to 80.
"It's a different proposal" from the one defeated in 2006, said Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Taniguchi (D, Moiliili-Manoa). "There's some concern about age discrimination.
"We felt that this might be a more appropriate way to proceed and at least provide the people with another opportunity to look into it."
Voters were asked in 2006 whether the mandatory retirement age should be done away with altogether. The proposed constitutional amendment was defeated by more than 80,000 votes, 58 percent to 35 percent.
Critics of the measure contend it is simply a means for majority Democrats in the Legislature to prevent Republican Gov. Linda Lingle from appointing a successor to Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Moon. Moon turns 70 in 2010, Lingle's final year in office.
"There is no justification for bringing this subject back only two years after such an unequivocal mandate from the voters," Attorney General Mark Bennett said in testimony on the bill.
"Moreover, it is possible for the public to conclude that the major reason for bringing this proposal back immediately, without any study or alternatives, is to preclude the present governor from appointing a new chief justice to the Hawaii Supreme Court when the present chief justice reaches the age of 70 in 2010."
Taniguchi said that was not the case, adding that the issue of changing the mandatory retirement age had been discussed even before Lingle took office.
House Judiciary Chairman Tommy Waters (D, Lanikai-Waimanalo) said the bill attempts to address age discrimination.
"I know for a fact that there are good judges out there -- and good people in general who would make good judges -- who are over 70," said Waters, a practicing attorney.
The proposal, Senate Bill 3202, has advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is likely to win passage when it goes before the full chamber. It would then go to the House for consideration.
A House version of the bill, which would ask voters to approve raising the age limit to 72, has been tabled in favor of the Senate bill, "which gives us a little more leeway," Waters said.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
» Senate Bill 3202 proposes a constitutional amendment to let voters decide on changing the mandatory retirement age for judges. This article originally gave an incorrect bill number.