U.S. Sixth Circuit - The FindLaw 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Law Prevents Anyone Older Than 70 From Becoming a Judge

You have to wonder about the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision on old judges.

The appeals court affirmed a Michigan law that prevents anyone over 70 from being elected or appointed a judge. A 68-year-old judge sued to invalidate the law because it will make him ineligble for re-election in a couple of years.

But, if anyone's counting, nearly half the judges on the appeals court are over 70. Like Wink Wilkinson said in the Little Shop of Horrors, there's something "so very weird" here.

Equal Protection

The Sixth Circuit affirmed a decision against Judge Michael J. Theile, concluding that the age-based law did not violate the Equal Protection clause. The appeals court said it serves a legitimate purpose of "preserving the competency of the judiciary."

"Objection, 13 members of the appeals court are over the age limit! Almost half the judges on the U.S. Supreme Court are over 70!!"

If you were wondering, Theile didn't actually make those objections. They would have been overruled anyway.

Instead, he argued that "with age comes experience." That didn't work either.

Old Laws Die Hard

Unfortunately for the judge, the age limit became law in 1908 under Michigan's constitution. It will soon phase out at least six other local judges up for election.

Of course, the state law doesn't apply to federal judges. They are appointed for life, however long that takes.

For example, Senior Judge Damon Keith of the Sixth Circuit is 95.

Related Resources: