There's a unique constitutional amendment that will appear on this November ballot for voters in New York State. On Election Day, we will be able to chose whether to raise the retirement age for state judges. This week's Siena poll showed most people do not support the idea, but it does have supporters in the legal community. Zack Fink tells us more.
NEW YORK STATE -- It hasn't received as much attention as the referendum to legalize gambling, but voters are being asked to extend life on the bench for New York State judges.
Under the referendum to change the state constitution, judges on the Supreme Court and the court of appeals would be able to retire at 80 instead of age 70.
"The current age limitation comes from 1869. And now, we are here, over 150 some odd years later and the age of retirement is the same as it was in 1869 when the average life expectancy was 40," nsaid Robert Danzi of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.
But critics contend that age 70 is long enough. And by extending the mandatory requirement age, it only stifles efforts to diversify the court along with a rapidly diversifying state population.
"Too often, it's white males that stay there for a tremendously long time. So I think any kind of legislation that perpetuates the status quo, that keeps them in longer is not good for Democracy, is certainly not good for the black, Latino and Asian community," said New York City Councilman Charles Barron.
Albany insiders have also grumbled that the bill authorizing the referendum is a favor from embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to his good friend Jonathan Lippman, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals. Without the change, Lippman would have to retire in 2015 when he turns 70.
Barron said, "Shelly Silver has a way of sneaking things in. He probably cut some deal somewhere. Trying to help some of his pals."
Danzi said, "Judge Lippmann is wonderful jurist and we would be benefitted overall to keep him on the bench as long as possible because he is as good as they get."
Danzi's political action committee, Lawpac, has given Silver more than $20,000 over the last decade.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who strongly favors the casino referendum, is against this one.
"I don't support the referendum that would raise the limit," Cuomo said.
A spokesman for Silver called the theory that he was doing a favor for Lippman "nonsense," adding that this effort to raise the age has been going on for years. Voters rejected a similar referendum in 1983.