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Senate approves increasing judicial retirement age

The mandatory retirement age for Virginia judges would increase from 70 to 73 under a bill approved by the state Senate Monday.

The bill could face an uphill battle on the House side of the General Assembly, however. The civil subcommittee of the House Courts committee already has killed two proposals to increase the mandatory judicial retirement age.

The bill that cleared the Senate is Senate Bill 95, sponsored by Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke.

House Bill 163 (allowing judges to serve until age 73) died on a four-to-four tie vote in the House subcommittee. House Bill 1097 (mandatory retirement at age 72) failed on a voice vote in the same panel.

The Judicial Council of Virginia, made up of judges, legislators and lawyers, has recommended increasing the judge retirement ceiling to age 73. The council’s report to the General Assembly was delivered Jan. 23.

Meanwhile, the Senate Rules committee is considering a proposal to refer the issue to the State Crime Commission for study.

Senate Joint Resolution 69, offered by Sen. Jeffrey L. McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, would direct the Crime Commission to report to the 2013 Assembly on the expected financial impact of raising the mandatory retirement age and its predicted effect on the service provided by judges. The proposed resolution recites that a number of states are considering changes in judicial retirement and that raising the retirement age could save money in the retirement trust fund.

A report accompanying the Edwards bill estimates Virginia could save $1.242 million in retirement benefits costs by raising the judicial retirement age to 73.

A bill to help judges facing ethics charges foundered on the  Senate side. The Senate Courts committee shot down a proposal to allow introduction of evidence at Supreme Court judicial discipline hearings. Senate Bill 360 died on a vote of nine-to-six.

By Peter Vieth

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