A bill introduced by state Rep. Matthew Shepherd would increase the maximum age judges could serve without jeopardizing their retirement benefits.
Currently, judges in Arkansas can serve until the age of 70 before they lose their retirement benefits. This bill would increase that age to 72.
From the bill:
A judge or justice under the age of seventy (70) seventy-two (72) who is receiving retirement benefits under § 24-8-201 et seq. or § 24-8- 701 et seq., who is elected or appointed to any judicial office in this state, and who foregoes receipt of retirement benefits while serving in the judicial office shall be entitled to resume receiving his or her previous retirement benefits upon termination of the subsequent service.
I attempted to get an answer from Shepherd as to why he felt this change was necessary, but he never got back to me. My own opinion is that a gentle encouragement to leave the bench and retire is a healthy incentive for judges — the small degree of turnover that this policy encourages is probably best for the state.
It isn’t clear to me why Shepherd introduced this bill, but I hope it isn’t just a judge in his or her late 60s who wants to stay on the bench a little bit past the age of 70.
Due to the heavy advantage incumbents have in judicial elections, the bill would also make it harder for newer candidates from getting elected for another election cycle.