POWELL — Wyoming voters will be asked to weigh in on raising the mandatory retirement age of Supreme Court and District Court judges as they vote on proposed Amendment B in the Nov. 8 general election.
Amendment B would raise the compulsory retirement age for the judges from 70 to 75.
Adoption of constitutional amendments requires approval by a majority of all voters casting ballots at the election.
Raising the mandatory retirement age of Supreme Court and District Court judges reached the general election ballot after receiving two thirds majority approval of both houses of the Wyoming Legislature in 2022.
Rep. Dan Laursen of Powell was not one of the 54 of 59 House members who approved the proposed amendment, a big boost in the 2022 Legislature. The Senate passed the proposal 20-10.
“I am not in favor of raising the age to 75,” said Laursen, “I was consistently against it, even in committee. The present age limit of 70 is good.”
Retired District Court Judge Hunter Patrick of Powell has mixed feelings about the proposal, but tends to be supportive of leaving the judicial retirement age at 70.
Patrick was not affected by the compulsory retirement from the bench at age 70, which was established by constitutional amendment in 1971. He retired from the Fifth Judicial District Court at age 66 in 2006.
Patrick said he believes the mandatory retirement age of 70 has worked pretty well.
“Judges go into the position knowing that. It’s a choice they make,” he said. “It’s good to have some fresh faces in the judiciary,” he added. “Part of my thinking in the broader area of constitutional law is the more you amend the Constitution, the weaker it gets.”
An experienced pool of retired judges still has a role in the Wyoming judiciary, he noted.
“Even with the mandatory retirement age of 70, the Supreme Court can give assignments to retired judges to sit on a case,” Patrick said.
“There may be a judge who got voted out, but I do not know of one. There are good attorneys ready to become judges,” he said. “I am not sure who was the driving force to bring the change; it may have been the chairman, the judiciary committee and other lawyers. I encourage a no vote on both amendments.”