(CN) – The Illinois Supreme Court struck down a state law that set a mandatory retirement age for judges, saying it violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause.
Judge William Maddux will be 75 next year when his term as Cook County Circuit Court Judge expires. He has stated that he would run for re-election if the Compulsory Retirement of Judges Act is invalidated.
The trial court dismissed Maddux’s complaint, but on direct appeal, Justice Freeman reversed the decision.
In doing so, he voided a controlling opinion from the Appellate Court, which allowed a judge to seek election but not retention. That is, a judge like Maddux, whose seat would be automatically vacated under the Act, would be allowed to run for that seat, only not as an incumbent.
“This interpretation,” Freeman wrote, “departs in no small way from the Act’s plain language. Under this construction, the Act does not provide for mandatory retirement at all.”
Freeman cited the Illinois constitution, which establishes the eligibility requirements to be a judge. Age is not among those requirements.
“The plain language of the specific legislation that has been enacted violates equal protection,” Freeman wrote. “Moreover, as it is written, it allows certain judges to avoid mandatory retirement.”