By Justin Yang
Justin Yang is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.
This November 8th, everyone on the planet will be focused on the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump; perhaps rightly so, due to the enormous impact the President of the United States has. But there’s more than Trump and Clinton on the ballot – there are congressional offices, state and local offices, as well as ballot initiatives on which to vote. For Pennsylvanians, they will be asked whether the retirement ages of their judges should be raised 5 more years to 75.  Sure, this isn’t as cool or sexy as questions of marijuana, the minimum wage, or gun control, but it is almost as, if not more, impactful to the people of Pennsylvania than the other states’ questions are to their residents.
Here’s the ballot initiative in question:
"Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices, judges and justices of the peace be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years?" 
This is a really important question for many reasons: the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is the highest court in the state and the final arbiter of state law. This law concerns most aspects of our lives, and the Court deals with hundreds of cases every year.  More important still are all the cases decided by appellate courts that don’t get appealed upwards, numbering in the thousands.  Additionally, this doesn’t even take into account of all the judges in the state who deal with mundane cases that affect perhaps millions of people.
For example, just a few months ago, the state courts dealt with the trial of Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane; even the State Supreme Court got involved, denying an emergency application to suppress evidence against her.  This Court has ruled upon or continues to address other matters of great public interest, ranging from fracking to public health to funding for public defenders to funding for poor school districts.  The Court even recently handled a case dealing with this exact ballot question (which, interestingly, is a questionable conflict of interest as the justices decided on a case that directly affects their own careers). 
But how does the retirement age affect how any of these cases are decided? So what if judges stay on for another five years? The issue is that the judiciary is already the branch of government that is most resistant to progressive thought; it is filled with judges who are perhaps too old to fully understand things that might not have concerned them, or even existed, when they were younger. This concern goes beyond partisanship – liberal and conservative judges are not immune to being behind on the times.
Of course, keeping the retirement age at 70 isn’t going to fix this issue, but increasing it by five years is going to retain old judges for even longer and delay any new blood from entering the courts. The judiciary is designed to be slower than the other branches of government, with Supreme Court justices holding terms for ten years. But with virtually certain reelection rates, once a justice has been chosen, they will remain on the bench until they are forced to retire. This retains old modes of thinking that will affect outcomes of cases that impact all of Pennsylvania. 
Raising the retirement entrenches these old ways into the courts for longer, which lowers the turnover of judges and justices as well as the turnover of ideas and thoughts. We need to prevent the further solidification of the courts into the previous generations and vote “No” to Question One on Election Day.
 “Candidates for Office.” Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners. Accessed October 6, 2016. http://www.philadelphiavotes.com/en/voters/candidates-for-office
 AOPC Research. “2015 Caseload Statistics of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania.” Pacourts.com. Accessed October 6, 2016. http://media-downloads.pacourts.us/2015Report104new.pdf?cb=478710
 Jess Bidgood. “Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Is Convicted on All Counts.” New York Times. August 15, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/16/us/trial-kathleen-kane-pennsylvania-attorney-general.html
 Dan Zukowski. “Pro-Fracking Law Ruled Unconstitutional by Pennsylvania Supreme Court.” EcoWatch. September 30, 2016. http://www.ecowatch.com/act-13-fracking-law-2023467532.html
 Shanti Gamper-Rabindran. “Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rightly Rules for Transparency.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. October 4, 2016. http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/2016/10/04/Court-rightly-rules-for-transparency-nbsp/stories/201610040031
 Chris Mondics. “Pa. Supreme Court orders adequate funding for public defenders.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. September 30, 2016. http://www.philly.com/philly/business/law/Pa-Supreme-Court-orders-adequate-funding-for-public-defenders.html
 Maryclaire Dale. “Pennsylvania High Court Hears School Funding Challenge.” AP. September 13, 2016. http://6abc.com/education/pennsylvania-high-court-hears-school-funding-challenge/1509726/
 Angela Couloumbis. “Supreme Court deadlock ends challenge to referendum on Pa. judge retirement age.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. September 2, 2016. http://articles.philly.com/2016-09-02/news/75259958_1_ballot-question-november-ballot-senate-republicans
 “Pennsylvania Supreme Court.” Ballotpedia.com. Accessed October 6, 2016. https://ballotpedia.org/Pennsylvania_Supreme_Court
Photo Credit: Flickr User
The opinions and views expressed through this publication are the opinions of the designated authors and do not reflect the opinions or views of the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal, our staff, or our clients.