What to do with ageing US judges?
There is an fascinating article in Slate about ageing federal judges in the US. It points out that life tenure, intended to foster judicial independence, was enshrined in the constitution when it was ratified in 1789. Back then, the average American lived to be about 40, and there was little concern senile judges.
Now, however, about 12 percent of the nation's 1,200 sitting federal district and circuit judges are 80 years or older. Eleven federal judges over the age of 90 are hearing cases, and one judge is over 100. The number of octogenarians and nonagenarians on the federal bench has doubled in the past 20 years.
In the absence of any formal system to assess the competence of senior judges, the court relies on other judges to monitor colleagues and, working discreetly behind the scenes, to push out enfeebled judges gently.
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