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Proposition 13: Retirement Age of State Justices and Judges

In Texas, state justices and judges are elected officials. Under current law, these judges and justices are required to retire at the age of 75 and must be at least 70 years old to retire. This means that even if an individual is elected to a six-year term as a judge, they will be forced out of their position before the end of their term if they reach the age of 75. The law also requires a judge to be removed from their position four years into their term if they turn 75 during the first four years of their six-year term. Essentially, if the voters select a 73-year-old to serve as their judge or justice for six years the law prohibits the candidate from serving the entirety of their term, only allowing them to serve four of the six years for which they were elected.

Proposition 13 asks voters if these retirement ages should be increased. The passage of Proposition 13 would increase the mandatory retirement age to 79 and the minimum to 75. The Proposition would also remove the provision within the law that would prematurely end an individual's term as judge or justice. This would allow an individual who is elected at the age of 78 to serve the entirety of their term even though it would end at the age of 84. In the background and purpose of HJR 107 (the legislation that placed Proposition 13 on the ballot), the reason for this proposed increase is simply that with “today's longer life expectancies, 75 is no longer a reasonable age to mandate someone step down” from their role.

The issue when discussing the retirement age of judges, however, is not whether or not they will live through the duration of their term. It is instead if they are competent and capable of performing the duties of a judge or justice. This is a decision made every election by voters when selecting who they want to serve in those roles. If the populace finds that a judge does not have the mental or physical faculties to perform their duty, then they are more than entitled to vote for another candidate. This is likely a practice that voters are already partaking in as evidenced by the fact that as of September 1, 2023, the average age of judges in Texas is 57.7 years. The current age limit constrains voters from selecting highly capable and competent candidates and it can actually limit the terms of elected candidates against the wishes of the voters. The passage of Prop 13 would remove these problems and permit voters to retain their desired elected judge or justice for the duration of their term, regardless of age.


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