CIVIC CENTER — When New York City voters head to the polls Tuesday, they'll be weighing in on more than just who’ll be the next mayor. They'll also be deciding a measure that seeks to raise the mandatory retirement age for some state judges from from 70 to 80 years old.
Under current state law, Supreme Court judges who turn 70 have to apply for an extension to continue to sit on the bench, with two-year extensions, up to age 76.
“The age that they're talking about now retiring at — age 70 — is just not realistic in today's world,” said Lenore Kramer, a lawyer and former president of both the state’s Trial Lawyers Association and the Women’s Bar Association. “I’m in courts every day. We're short staffed. We need additional judges.”
If the ballot measure passes, it would allow Supreme Court judges to extend their stay on the bench to age 80, while judges in the Court of Appeals — the state's highest court — would be allowed to stay on until 80 as of right.
But, a Court of Appeals judge whose 14-year term expires after age 70 could not be reappointed under the proposal.
Dick Dadey, the executive director of the good-government group Citizens Union, says the biggest problem with the proposal is that it doesn’t go far enough.
“It's not that we shouldn’t consider extending the retirement age. It's that if we do that, we should do it for all,” Dadey said.
As it stands, the language on the ballot doesn’t explicitly include judges at some of the other state courts, such as claims court, surrogate's court, town and village court and family court, among others, critics complain.
“It's just a very uneven application in this effort to raise the retirement age,” said Dadey. “What we’re getting here is not a half a loaf but just a few crumbs.”
Advocates acknowledge the limited application of the measure, but said it was better to extend the age of some judges than none at all.
“For those able, fit and willing to make that contribution, we need them," she said.