Pa. judges sue state to prevent mandatory retirement at 70

Author: , Reporter, JFarris@wfmz.com
Published: Mar 13 2013 08:00:00 PM EDT   Updated On: Mar 15 2013 06:22:44 AM EDT

How old is too old to work? If you are a judge in Pennsylvania, that age, according to state law, is 70.

It's the only state position with a mandatory retirement age, and area judges are fighting back.

The current events group at the Lehigh County Senior Center on Thursday debated lawsuits filed by Pennsylvania judges who are seeking to overturn the mandatory retirement from the bench.

The judges said it violates constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. 

"I would hate for someone to tell me I can't work anymore," said senior Donald Sayler.

"I think it's a good idea that they get them out at 70 and you have new blood," said senior Angel Bas.

But if you look at the U.S. Supreme Court, justice ages run from 53 to 80. Four justices -- Ginsberg, Breyer, Scalia and Kennedy -- are all over 70.

The state lawsuit includes two local judges, Leonard Zito of Northampton County and Alan Rubenstein of Bucks County. Both are nearing the 70-year mark.

The judges' attorney said the mandatory retirement is a clear case of age discrimination.

"It is unlawful discrimination to require them to step down from the business of judging as age 70, even though they are perfectly able," said attorney Robert Heim.

A spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett said the administration can't talk about pending litigation.

The attorney general's office, which is defending the state, has asked a U.S. Middle District judge to dismiss the lawsuits.

The attorney general said the mandatory retirement age is not age discrimination and has been upheld in several other states.

"Testing would encourage voluntary resignation," said senior Lee Hunter.

Right now, there are no tests for judges, but some said testing or allowing president judges to determine the fitness of elder judges is a way to solve the issue.

In the end, it will be up to a judge to decide.