Move to hike age limit for judges fails


COLUMBUS — Attitudes about age may be changing, but not enough for Ohio voters to raise the age limit for those who dispense justice.

With nearly 64 percent of the unofficial tally in, Issue 1 was being rejected 62 percent to 38 percent Tuesday by voters. The proposed constitutional amendment would have allowed judges from the municipal court level to the Ohio Supreme Court to run for the bench until they reach the age of 75.

Voters opted to preserve the age limit of 70 written into the Ohio Constitution 43 years ago. Assuming a six-year term, a judge could be on the bench to as late as age 76, compared with 81 under Issue 1.

Issue 1, perhaps the least watched of the three statewide issues, was put to voters by an overwhelming majority of the General Assembly, which followed through with a change initially sought by the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer.

The Ohio State Bar Association backed it, as did current Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor.

She has not applied an age limit in assigning visiting or senior judges who serve temporarily on benches to ease case loads.

The ballot issue was opposed, however, by the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, which argued that the state's system for dealing with incompetent judges has not proved effective.

The Ohio Democratic Party had also opposed the change, knowing that it could mean that Republicans who make up six of the seven seats on the state Supreme Court could stick around even longer. Two current justices — Judith Lanzinger of Toledo and Paul Pfeifer of Bucyrus — are barred from seeking new six-year terms in 2016 because of the limit.

As of July, the average age of 717 sitting judges was 56. Of those, 275 were older than 60 and 22 were older than 70 and barred from seeking re-election.

Judge is the only elected office in Ohio with an age limit. Federal judges can serve for life.