42 years ago, Mick Jagger famously said “I’d rather be dead than signing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m forty-five.” But as the septuagenarian Mick and his geriatric Rolling Stones celebrate 50 years and counting, Mick still “can’t go no satisfaction” and there’s no assuagement in sight. Paul McCartney turned 70 last June and there’s no quit in that silver fox either.
So why should it be any surprise that six Pennsylvania judges have filed suit to invalidate a state constitutional requirement that would force them to put away their gavels at age 70? The six are alleging violations of their 14th Amendment Equal Protection and Due Process rights.
No matter that this is settled law since the U.S. Supreme Court already spoke on the subject more than 20 years ago. Under Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U.S. 452 (1991), the Equal Protection Clause doesn’t apply. Age isn’t a “suspect classification.” And last time I looked, there still no such thing as a fundamental right to serve as a judge.
But things change — or so they argue. Besides, there’s always that adage about“The older the berry, the sweeter the juice.”
According to their lawsuit, the jurists contend that “the probability of cognitive impairment among older Americans has consistently decreased, even since the early 1990s.” So why not give old age a chance?
And then there’s Professor Joe Flynn’s “Are We Getting Smarter?: Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century” of which in his book review, The Guardian’s John Naughton notes that ‘On cognitive decline in the aging process, Flynn has good news and bad news. The good news is that bright people retain verbal facility as they age. The bad news is that their capacity for analytical thinking declines, and the brighter they were when young, the greater is the subsequent decline.” Talk about payback for not being young and dumb.
So expect a battle of experts from each side — assuming, though, that the case even gets that far. Unlike Article III judges with lifetime tenure, there’s no subjective protection by ‘self-policing.’
Never leaving the building.
So as Thanksgiving approaches, judges, rock stars and, of course, politicians are the ones most like those annoying house guests who overstay their welcome and never leave. Since politicians see themselves as God’s gift to the electorate, Elvis never leaves the building.
Here in Arizona, crusty and cranky 80-year old Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio just won his sixth term — so is it any wonder that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer wants her own share of additional voter love? The finger-wagging, grammar-challenged Brewer, a few clowns short of a circus, continues to mull a run for a third term. Term limits be damned.
And over the weekend, ex-state bar president and former Brewer general counsel Joe Kanefield offered up a political puff piece short on law, lengthy on longing and heavy on parsing in support, “Kanefield: Constitution clears Brewer to pursue another term.”
So what if most election and constitutional experts disagree with Kanefield or more importantly, that the Arizona Constitution unambiguously limits executive officers, including the governor, to two consecutive four-year terms.
A plain reading of Arizona Constitution, Article 5 Section 1 Version 2 reveals:
“Section 1. A. The executive department shall consist of the governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, attorney general, and superintendent of public instruction, each of whom shall hold office for a term of four years beginning on the first Monday of January, 1971 next after the regular general election in 1970.
“No member of the executive department shall hold that office for more than two consecutive terms. This limitation on the number of terms of consecutive service shall apply to terms of office beginning on or after Jan. 1, 1993.
No member of the executive department after serving the maximum number of terms, which shall include any part of a term served, may serve in the same office until out of office for no less than one full term.”
Notwithstanding that “elected term” doesn’t appear in the foregoing provision, Kanefield nevertheless seems to think it all comes down to the meaning of “term.” This is why he makes a distinction about “elected terms” when he argues that “The voters created the term-limits law and they should resolve any ambiguity by expressing their collective opinion at the polls should Gov. Brewer seek two elected terms.” [emphasis added] Only problem, though, is where’s the ambiguity?
Not, of course, that term limits are much protection from politicians. As the late comedian George Carlin used to say, “Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.”
Photo Credits: “Mick Jagger,” by Mark Rain, AZRainman, at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution; “Look what washed up in Quesnel,” by miguelb at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution;”Jan Brewer,” byDonkeyHotey at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution; “Equivocal,” by Brett Jordan, at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution.