By Lesley Weidenbener
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson and several other members of the state’s appellate courts would not be affected by a bill to eliminate a mandatory retirement age.
Senate Bill 124, authored by Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, would eliminate the state’s mandatory retirement age of 75 for members of the Indiana Court of Appeals and Indiana Supreme Court.
TheStatehouseFile.com reported on Wednesday that the bill could have enabled the 71-year-old Dickson and other appellate judges to keep their jobs longer. That was incorrect because the Indiana Constitution would prevent the bill from impacting Dickson and others, said Joel Schumm, a professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
Article 7, Section 11 requires that Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals’ judges “retire at the age specified by statute in effect at the commencement of his current term.”
Indiana Supreme Court justices serve an initial term of 2-4 years and then terms of 10 years renewable by retention vote. Dickson’s current term began after the 2008 election in which Hoosiers voted to retain him on the court. That means – even if the bill became law – he would turn 75 and face retirement before a new term could begin.
However, Schumm also said the General Assembly “cannot simply remove a retirement age.” That’s because the constitution says that state law will specify an age.
But the General Assembly could change the mandatory retirement age, Schumm said.
“I very much like Justice Dickson and wish he could serve longer if he wanted,” Schumm said. “But I see the logic behind the constitutional provision. Retirement ages should not be changed based on individual personalities but rather be ground in sound, long-term policy.”
Buck said he did not author the legislation to help Dickson or any particular judge.
Lesley Weidenbener is managing editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.