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Chief Judge Sentelle:

The Honorable Douglas H. Ginsburg has announced that he will step down as Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit next month. Succeeding him will be the Honorable David B. Sentelle (for whom I clerked). As Howard Bashman notes, Judge Ginsburg's term as chief was not due to expire until July. Yet were he to wait until then, Judge Sentelle would be ineligible to become chief because he will be 65. By stepping down slightly early, Ginsburg enables Sentelle to become Chief shortly before his 65th birthday. Judge Sentelle is not eligible for a full seven-year term, however, as he will have to step down by the time he turns 70.

Waldensian (mail):
These age restrictions are silly. I'd take Sentelle at 80 over every 50-year-old judge I know.
1.25.2008 10:25am
Observer:
Aren't there laws against age discrimination by government entities? I guess not.
1.25.2008 10:29am
Tareeq (www):
Another monument burnishing the legacy of William Orville Douglas.
1.25.2008 10:30am
alias:
If I'm doing the math right, Judge Ginsburg's decision means that Judge Henderson isn't going to be Chief Judge
1.25.2008 10:33am
LTEC (mail) (www):
Do you refer to the Pope as "his holiness"?

I think it is inappropriate to refer to people by the silly praise-word titles they prefer such as "honorable".


(signed)
The Great LTEC
1.25.2008 10:44am
Justin (mail):
Alias, I was thinking the same thing.
1.25.2008 11:06am
Justin (mail):
PS - Congrads to your former Judge, Jon.
1.25.2008 11:07am
BT:
I agree with Waldensian, age restrictions or manditory retirement in this day and age for judges doesn't make sense, especially when we have judges on the SC serving well into their 80s. I can understand it for cops or for those jobs that require physical strength or precise hand eye coordination like neurosurgeons, etc. Also I agree with The Great LTEC that titles such as the Honorable are over done. And to go completely off topic, I also wish that we would no longer refer to former elected officials by whatever office that they were elected to for the rest of thier lives. How about Mr. Smith, instead of Senator Smith.
1.25.2008 11:37am
donaldk2 (mail):
"Honorable" is the triumph of hope over experience. No, I don't really mean that.
1.25.2008 11:51am
Dave N (mail):
Ginsburg is not retiring from the bench--he has a lifetime appointment and all that entails on the D.C. Circuit. He is merely no longer going to be "Chief Judge"--which means being in charge of all the administrative headaches of running the Circuit and presiding over all en banc courts.

It is just too bad Judge Ginsburg admitted to smoking dope as a law professor--or we would not be having this discussion--nor having to worry about how Tony Kennedy thought the wind was blowing on any given day.
1.25.2008 12:30pm
Alan P (mail):
I once worked for a Federal Administrative Agency where the retirement age for Administrative Law Judges was 70. While that meant losing a few competent judges at that point, it also meant getting rid of some judges who had long since retired in place.

When they did away with mandatory retirement, the best judges still left at around 70 or shortly thereafter, but the least capable and, yes, even senile judges would just stay on and on and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
1.25.2008 12:44pm
dearieme:
Yes this silly honorific "President" will have to be binned when otherwise two "President" Clintons will be in the White House. I suggest that the male one be addressed as "slimeball".
1.25.2008 1:04pm
TerrencePhilip:
After a couple months of paperwork and administrative duty Judge Sentelle may wonder what he ever did to deserve such shabby treatment from Judge Ginsburg!

Age restrictions may well be silly as applied to Judge Sentelle, but not so for so many others; judicial decrepitude is a real problem in the federal courts.
1.25.2008 1:22pm
Oren:
BT, the rules were put in place long before our current medical knowledge. Perhaps that knowledge means we should move it up a few decades but overall it seems like a perfectly rational restriction, even if it does impede on a few very competent judges.

Dearieme, save the vitriol for elsewhere - if you can't at least respect that the majority of the country voted for Clinton twice (and the Vegas odds on Hilary are 1:1).
1.25.2008 1:23pm
Milhouse (www):
Actually, Clinton never got a majority.

In some cases the age limits aren't from that long ago. Australians amended their constitution a mere 30 years ago to make High Court justices retire at 70. It wasn't even a controversial question. It had support from just about everybody. (The judges may have been against it, but they're not allowed to express political opinions so there was no way to know what they thought.)
1.25.2008 2:06pm
therut:
We have a excellent General Surgeon at our hospital is a small town. We have been very lucky to have him for years. He is a home town guy. Is is totally competent and a very good surgeon. While there is no mandatory retirement age his malpractice insurance will automatically go up to 100,000 dollars a year. He can not do that. Due to our culture of suing we are losing a extremely dedicated physician.
1.25.2008 2:21pm
BT:
Oren and Alan P make some very good points. To be more specific, it comes down to the individual. There is no doubt that there are good judges who could serve well into their 80s like Stevens on the SC, who from all reports is active and vigorous to this day. (As an aside, I don't often agree with him but that has nothing to do with age). Thurgood Marshall probably was a someone who stayed long after he should have. How you codify that is the problem. I don't predend to be smart enough to know how to do that.
1.25.2008 2:33pm
BT:
And I think I just proved my point with my lousy spelling on my last post. (:
1.25.2008 2:34pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Do you refer to the Pope as "his holiness"?

My guess is that if your chosen profession is analyzing in minute detail the pronouncements issued by high-ranking members of the Catholic Church hierarchy, then you typically refer to the Pope as "His Holiness".
1.25.2008 2:51pm
Frog Leg (mail):
So who is it that his decision prevents from being chief judge? Who was next in line after Sentelle?
1.25.2008 2:57pm
Jay:
Frog Leg: Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson (Judge Sentelle's fellow Carolinian on the DC Circuit). Of course, Sentelle might step down early himself to allow Henderson to take over, I guess.
1.25.2008 3:38pm
Just a thought:

Do you refer to the Pope as "his holiness"?

I think it is inappropriate to refer to people by the silly praise-word titles they prefer such as "honorable".

(signed)
The Great LTEC


It is not a matter of naming people by titles which they "prefer." You can't just take a title (like "the Great" or "Honorable") by choice. These are titles that come by convention with the station. Our society has certain conventions, by which people who have a particularly special or elevated station, are called by a special title. Some stations have different variations of the title depending on the occasion. ("Judge X" or "Pope X" is fine on some occasions; while "the Honorable X" and "his Holiness X" are appropriate on more formal occasions, like in a formal address). Personally, I think it is a good idea for society to give titles to certain positions by convention, because it is a good idea for citizens to have respect for certain positions.

If you think that a formal title is silly, then why have titles at all? Why bother with calling him, "Judge Sentelle"? Why not just call him "Mr. Sentelle"? After all, I don't call my plumber, "Plumber Smith", so why should I give special title to my judge? And why stop at "Mr." or "Ms."? "Mr." and "Ms." are extra titles. Why not just call people solely by their given names?
1.25.2008 3:41pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
If you think that a formal title is silly, then why have titles at all? Why bother with calling him, "Judge Sentelle"? Why not just call him "Mr. Sentelle"? After all, I don't call my plumber, "Plumber Smith", so why should I give special title to my judge? And why stop at "Mr." or "Ms."? "Mr." and "Ms." are extra titles. Why not just call people solely by their given names?
I've dealt with some attorneys who insist on using the word "Attorney" as a title, which always sounded really stilted to me. That is, he'd call me "Attorney Nieporent" when he spoke to, or about, me.
1.25.2008 4:49pm
Sean M:
Let us not forget "General Clement."

(This always bugs me. The Supreme Court has to know that 'General' in Solicitor General works as an adjective, not a noun, yet they still do it...)
1.25.2008 5:48pm
Justin (mail):
Nobody has ever had a majority of the country vote for them, seeing as more than half the country doesn't vote (even in 2004, 180 million Americans didn't vote, although I'd imagine a portion of them were ineligible due to age or felony status).
1.25.2008 6:38pm
Craig Oren (mail):
I once heard that Judge Sentelle has a daughter named Reagan -- any truth to that?
1.25.2008 8:43pm
byomtov (mail):
I've dealt with some attorneys who insist on using the word "Attorney" as a title, which always sounded really stilted to me. That is, he'd call me "Attorney Nieporent" when he spoke to, or about, me.

What's this? Pompous lawyers? Hard to believe.
1.25.2008 8:51pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I've dealt with some attorneys who insist on using the word "Attorney" as a title, which always sounded really stilted to me. That is, he'd call me "Attorney Nieporent" when he spoke to, or about, me.

Around here, that'd be taken as insult. On first (every) contact, Mr. ___ is appropriate. After that, your first name. Anything else would be taken as intended to offend. I'm serious. Mr. ___ is only appropriate to a letter calling or implying the recipient is a scoundrel.

As far as titles go, I've always wanted to be Your Excellency. But so far I haven't even gotten anyone to Your Very Goodness.
1.25.2008 10:03pm
Steve2:
Honestly, I don't think it's inappropriate to have age caps for Federal office, and really think it ought to be extended to elected offices as well. As you age, your life expectancy shrinks, and with it the probability that you're going to be around when the long-term (or, once you're that old, even the short-term) consequences of your decisions show up - which it seems to me would reduce your incentive to think or care about those consequences. Put another way, what right does a septuagenarian who's already had five decades in which to participate in the political process have to any further say in legal, policy, or constitutional decisions that'll affect today's potentially for decades to come? "None" to "very little" seem like fair answers to me.

Plus, I often see complaints here about "rent-seeking interest groups". What is AARP if not the largest, most influential, and most pernicious of those?
1.25.2008 11:49pm
alias:
Steve2, if you spend a lot of time thinking about any group of people, you can probably find a justification for cutting them out of government. Poor people don't pay taxes, so when they vote (particularly on tax rates), they're basically spending other people's money. Rich people are insulated from all kinds of consequences of any decisions they might make, so they should be cut out too. Childless adults have less of a stake in the long-term consequences of their decisions, so they're not to be trusted either. Adults who have children want people who don't have children to subsidize them through school taxes, etc...

Anyway, kudges, for the most part, are engaged in settling disputes between other people, so regardless of their age they'll rarely have to deal with "consquences of their decisions." Some might also say that having no skin in the game is an advantage if you're looking for an impartial judge.

Moreover, in my limited experience with federal judges, the older ones are some of the better ones, the senior judges know when to scale back their workloads and when to quit, and there isn't a serious problem of "judicial decrepitude" as TerrencePhillip suggests.
1.26.2008 9:55am
old maltese:
Using a rule for a purpose unintended by the set of rules (e.g., stepping down early in order to be succeeded by A instead of B) generally is known as 'gaming the system'.

Nice to know that Honorable people do it too. :•)
1.26.2008 12:02pm
Libertarian1 (mail):
Justin (mail):
Nobody has ever had a majority of the country vote for them, seeing as more than half the country doesn't vote (even in 2004, 180 million Americans didn't vote, although I'd imagine a portion of them were ineligible due to age or felony status).




Except in Philadelphia. There nobody is ineligible for any reason including felony status or death.
1.26.2008 3:05pm