Supreme Court hears arguments on judicial retirement law | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Supreme Court hears arguments on judicial retirement law

Posted By on Thu, May 5, 2016 at 4:00 PM

click to enlarge FOR RETIREMENT LAW: Colin Jorgensen argues for state.
  • FOR RETIREMENT LAW: Colin Jorgensen argues for state.
The Arkansas Supreme Court heard arguments today from four judges challenging the state law that says judges lose retirement benefits if they are elected to a new term that begins after they turn 70.

Gerry Schulze, arguing for four judges, including an El Dorado district judge, Michael Landers, recently re-elected unopposed for a term that, if he begins it, could cancel his retirement benefits, said the law indirectly amounted to an unconstitutional new qualification to be a judge.

The state argues that an indirect effect is not unconstitutional. Judges can run as long as they want. They just lose the benefit of state contributions to their pensions if they start a new term after their 70th birthday, though they get their own contributions back. The state also argues that none of the judges can sue until they actually lose their benefits under the statute.

Justice Robin Wynne inquired about the "rational" basis for an age disincentive to run. Colin Jorgensen, representing the attorney general, said the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the idea that the possibility of erosion of abilities with age could give a rational basis for such laws.

Justices — at least five of whom could someday find the law applying to them because Chief Justice Howard Brill is serving by appointment and Justice Paul Danielson is retiring — asked many questions, particularly on the question of whether the judges had standing to make the case at this point.

You can watch the arguments here. A decision could come in the next couple of weeks.

ALSO TODAY AT THE SUPREME COURT: The court said it would appoint a special master to hear whether Lincoln County Clerk Cindy Glover was in contempt of court for not file marking an inmate's appeal for consideration by the Supreme Court. Shepleaded innocent in the brief show cause hearing to contempt of court. Glover marked the appeal as "received" rather than filed because the inmate did not pay filing fees. He'd contended he should be allowed to proceed as a pauper. The circuit judge had rejected that. But the Supreme Court said last month in setting the contempt proceeding that "a circuit court may not prevent an appeal from an adverse decision by implementing procedures that prevent indigent petitioners for filing timely appeals." In the case, Kenny Halfacre is seeking post-conviction relief on a life sentence for robbery in Pulaski County. He's acting as his own lawyer.

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