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Measure would raise mandatory judicial retirement age to 75

The top Democrat and leading Republican in the Maryland Senate have proposed a state constitutional amendment that would raise the mandatory retirement age for the state's judges from 70 to 75.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and Minority Leader J. B. Jennings are co-sponsoring a measure that would put the amendment on the 2016 ballot for voters to decide. The proposal would apply to all three levels the Maryland judiciary -- district courts, circuit courts and the appeals courts.

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Miller, a Calvert County Democrat, said he has heard from  judges who have reached that age and want to keep working. He said the current age barrier is too low.

"At the time 70 was adopted that would be the equivalent of 90 today," said Miller, who at 72 would have been forced to step down two years ago if the limit applied to legislators.

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Jennings, a Baltimore County Republican, said it would be preferable to keep judges on the bench because many of them come out of retirement and hear cases anyway.

Sen. Robert A. Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who heads the committee that would likely consider the amendment, endorsed the measure.

"Seventy is not old. People work into their 70s and 80s," he said.

The federal government and 19 states have no mandatory retirement age for judges. Another 70, including Maryland, set a hard limit of 70. No state enforces a lower retirement age. Other states set mandatory retirement ages between 72 and 90.

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