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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lynch vetoes unconstitutional law

We give Governor John Lynch full marks for vetoing a law that would have greatly expanded the ability of judges to serve on the bench past the Constutional age limit of 70. Tom Fahey reports on the Governor's veto in the Union Leader.

Critics said the bill, HB 655, would violate the Constitution and erode the authority of the Executive Council.

Lynch said the bill takes too far a past Supreme Court decision that the Constitution allows judges to return to duty on a limited and temporary basis.

"This bill would substantially expand the circumstances and potential time frames during which judges over the age of 70 could serve on the bench," Lynch wrote in his veto message.

"Any further expansion of the role of judicial officers over the age of 70 should be drawn in a very narrow way, or addressed through an amendment to our Constitution." (more)
The language of the New Hampshire Constitution is crystal clear:

[Art.] 78. [Judges and Sheriffs, When Disqualified by Age.] No person shall hold the office of judge of any court, or judge of probate, or sheriff of any county, after he has attained the age of seventy years.
Josiah Bartlett Center President Charlie Arlinghaus praises Lynch for his decision to veto this ill-conceived bill:
Governor Lynch's sensible veto strikes a blow for the notion that the clear language of the constitution ought not be ignored.
The State Supreme Court has held that judges can return to the bench for temporary or limited duty, such as to fill in for a recused Supreme Court justice. That opinion was quite a stretch. The age limit itself may be a bad idea. Mandatory retirement ages are questionable on policy and legal grounds, but that doesn't mean the Legislature should ignore the clear language of the New Hampshire Constitution. If they disagree with the age limit, they should pass a Constitution amendment removing Article 78, and give the voters the chance to approve it.

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