In a report aired two weeks ago, NY1 aired footage of Governor Andrew Cuomo saying that he opposes the constitutional amendment to raise the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges to age 80. The amendment will be on the ballot on Nov. 5.
The NY1 report, though aired on Wednesday Oct. 2, has not been picked up by other press organizations. Click here to view NY1 story.
The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
During the segment, Cuomo is shown stating, “I don’t support the referendum that would raise the limit.”
Dennis Hawkins, the executive director of the Fund for Modern Courts, which has long supported raising the age limit, said that the remark appeared to be a “very casual” one made in response to a reporter who caught him on the fly. Hawkins added that the Governor’s Office had not put forth any other more formal statement on the issue.
The amendment, which is on the ballot after having been approved by the state legislature this year and in 2011, would raise the retirement age of Court of Appeals judges by 10 years to 80. In addition, it would allow Supreme Court justice to extend their tenure by four years to age 80.
Currently Supreme Court justices are required to retire at age 70 but are eligible to continue to hear cases until the year after they turn 76 if they are found fit to serve, or “certificated,” by the Office of Court Administration for three additional two-year terms. The amendment would make retired Supreme Court justices eligible for certification for a total of five terms, or 10 years in total.
As a practical matter, most justices who apply for certification are found fit. The Office of Court Administration estimates that about 40 justices a year are required to retire because of the age limit.
The net effect of the amendment will be to increase the number of justices sitting in Supreme Court. The reason is that when judges retire at age 70, new justices are elected to fill their positions. Despite having been required to retire at age 70, the justices, once certificated, continue to hear cases until age 76 (80 if the amendment passes).
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has said that, with the added judicial firepower, more judges will be freed up for assignment to the Family Court, which has been struggling with increasing caseloads, according to the New York Law Journal.
Cuomo’s opposition adds to the woes of groups promoting the amendment. According to the New York Law Journal, a public opinion poll conducted in September by the Sienna College Research Institute found 71 percent voters oppose the amendment. Voters rejected a similar amendment in 1983, according to NY1. Click here to read story
The retirement age was set at 70 in 1869 in Article VI, Section 25 of the New York State Constitution. Since1999, OCA, embracing a task force report, had called for a rise in the age limit.