(WJBK) - Judges around the state face a mandatory retirement once they plop 70 candles on their birthday cake. Given the fact that folks are living longer and more productive lives, some have made the case that they can serve beyond that age.
In fact, former State Supreme Court Justice Mike Cavanaugh and former Appeals Court Judge Tom Fitzgerald were reaching that magic 70 mark when they hoped against hope that lawmakers might offer a plan to erase that requirement. The two are off the bench because that never happened.
Now, the state's judge at the top of the heap is getting into the debate for the first time in public.
Turns out Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young, Jr. is open to the concept but not an outright abolition of the 70 age. "I would not eliminate it," he opines.
"Judges are hard to get rid of it," he observes. If some local jurist is getting a little forgetful, is clearly not on top of his or her game and has maybe even fallen asleep on the bench, Mr. Young says it takes a long and convoluted process to get them off the bench.
First a complaint from some lawyer must be filed, then the Judicial Tenure Commission begins an investigation and depending on the "proof" in the case, a snap shot of a dozing judge would help, it could take months if not years to get the job done.
Hence Chief Justice Young favors creating a new retirement age; pick a number higher than 70 but not too high. "You could raise it," he asserts but does not offer a number.
Speaking of sleeping judges, you might remember the now infamous TV commercial aimed at former Chief Justice Cliff Taylor. His detractors ran the commercial with him "sleeping" during oral arguments.
Justice Young saw the spot and dismisses it as "hideous and it was false." And he argues the opponents knew it but some voters did not and when they counted the votes Judge Sleepy was out of a job.
Can the high court do anything about that Justice Young was asked?
Nope. It's part of politics he laments.
Someone can do something about the retirement age, but nobody has stepped up to do that just yet.