76 could become the new 70 for Mass. judges in retirement revamp

Posted April 18, 2011, at 7:09 p.m.
Last modified April 20, 2011, at 1 p.m.

BOSTON — Massachusetts lawmakers are considering delaying the day when state judges are put out to pasture by raising their mandatory retirement age from 70 to 76 — a legal trend reflective of the aging nation.

With at least seven senior judges due to be pushed out this year, the septuagenarian support measure now rests with the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, which heard testimony at the State House on Thursday.

“My health is very good. I would love to go back on the bench,” retired Probate and Family Court Judge Gerald D. McLellan told the Herald. “On the other hand, life is good.”

McLellan, now 75 and living in Florida, is writing his fourth novel and plays tennis three times a week.

“I don’t think people lose it between 70 and 76,” he said.

Nearly 14 percent of Bay State residents are 65 and older — a full percentage point higher than the country as a whole, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

Four states, including New Hampshire, have been working on letting judges serve for life. Vermont has the oldest mandatory retirement age — 90 — with the average being 72, according to the National Center of State Courts.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said retired District Court Judge Joseph R. Welch, 76, of Plymouth, who the state ushered out six years ago. “Most of my (retired) colleagues are in good health. An awful lot of experience left the bench. Very few of them I know were looking forward to retiring.”

 

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