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Michigan lawmakers mull nixing judicial age limit

DETROIT — The push to eliminate the age restriction for judges appears to be gaining momentum in Michigan’s new legislative term.

A measure has been introduced in both the state House and Senate to put the issue before voters to change the state constitution, which currently prohibits being elected or appointed to a judicial seat after age 70. Judges can complete their current term after they turn 70 but they cannot seek re-election.

The effort stalled in both chambers in the previous two-year term and the measures had to be re-introduced. Both have already been the subject of legislative hearings in the new term. It’s a sign the issue is on legislative leaders’ radar, but it remains to be seen if it is a priority.

House Joint Resolution G, sponsored by Rep. Hank Vaupel, R-Handy Township, was discussed in February by the House Judiciary Committee, but no action was taken. Senate Joint Resolution F, sponsored by Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, was approved March 7 by the Senate Judiciary Committee and sent to the Senate floor.

Each resolution would eliminate a provision that states, “No person shall be elected or appointed to a judicial office after reaching the age of 70 years.”

Those in favor of the change argue that it’s an arbitrary, outdated rule that prematurely sidelines effective jurists in an era where people are productive well beyond age 70. Others want the restriction to remain as it is a form of term limits that ensures mandatory retirement.

If approved by two-thirds of each legislative chamber, voters would decide on the constitutional amendment during the Nov. 6, 2018, general election.

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