State Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) is making another attempt to raise the retirement age for Pennsylvania judges and district justices. In the commonwealth, once judges reach the age of 70, they can continue to serve their 10-year term as a senior judge, but at a reduced salary, receive no health insurance benefits, and are not awarded any paid sick or vacation days.
Boscola said "70 is the new 60," and argues 70 is too early for judges' retirements.
"I first introduced it because there are certain judges, actually in Northampton County that are going to be turning 70 and are going to be forced to retire," Boscola said. "Now I know a couple of them are in really good health, they're very smart, and they work very hard, so I didn't think that the age 70 made any sense."
She suggested that 75 might be a more appropriate retirement age.
Six judges in the commonwealth are suing the government on the grounds the restriction violates the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Boscola said the legislation was not prompted by the lawsuit.
"Judges that are suing are ones that are going to be 70 within a year or two, and if we would make some legislative change here in Harrisburg it wouldn't affect them," Boscola said. "They now have to go through the court system and because it's a constitutional change at our legislative level that takes two sessions of the legislature."
Boscola added one of the legitimate reason for raising the retirement age is to save money.
"Counties spend a lot of money on senior judges to take over when you have vacations, or if there's an overload of cases, or there's a backlog, then they call senior judges to take over, and they can be quite expensive," Boscola said. "So [raising the retirement age] would help offset some of the cost."
The process to change the retirement age requires an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution which means a bill would have to be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions and approved by voters in a ballot referendum.