Chapter 30 – Is it Time to Retire?

What is a Federal Judge’s Senior Status worth? About an extra $3 million per judge.

Being a Judge or even an Arbitrator can be complicated. From my perspective, it is not so much the day to day administration of the process itself that makes this task complicated, but rather processing the evidence, filtering out the lies and mis-directions and controlling the amount of judicial discretion they allow themselves. When does it become apparent that mistakes are being made, that attorneys are manipulating you and the evidence is not aligning the way it use to?

Attorneys that just wont retire become arbitrators and mediators. State and County Judges do as well. Many of them go to work for a for profit group or groups that provide services by the hour on cases required to go through court ordered mediation before proceeding to court. Federal Judges work reduce schedules and pull down $200k a year for life doing so. Many of the State Court Judges pull down $120k a year for life. But retired attorneys have only what they have saved and if they retire from a larger law firm what they get in their pension plans.

The Associated Press published an article on this issue and I’m going to publish this is part here:

“SAN FRANCISCO — Now 84, federal appellate court Judge William Canby made the difficult decision a few years ago to mostly stop hearing cases after a 30‐year career. He was sharp and healthy, but didn’t want to risk mental decline that would lead him to make mistakes, he said. “It seemed to me if the goal is to work until you are no longer able, you will work a couple of years too long,” he said.

Canby’s decision reflects one of the unique job hazards federal judges face: age‐related mental decline. Unlike judges in most states, U.S. Supreme Court justices and federal appellate and district court judges are appointed for life. To be removed, they must be impeached by Congress, which has occurred only a few times.

Some judges stick around too long, colleagues and court observers say, prompting complaints that they are showing signs of senility such as forgetfulness, an inability to follow arguments and long delays in deciding cases. Judges say they often enlist peers or family members to quietly and delicately encourage the person to seek help or leave.

But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes federal courts in Oregon and eight other Western states, has taken a more pro‐active approach to the problem of mental decline by trying to get its judges to think about the condition, plan for it and handle it appropriately if it comes up.

The circuit court holds regular seminars led by neurological experts to teach its chief judges about the signs of cognitive impairment. It has set up a hotline where court staff and judges can get advice about dealing with signs of senility in colleagues. It has also encouraged judges to undergo cognitive assessments and designate colleagues, friends or family who can intervene if concerns arise about their mental health.

“We’re an organization that is required to police ourselves,” said Phyllis Hamilton, chief judge in the Northern District of California and head of the 9th Circuit’s wellness committee. “If we wish to retain the goodwill and confidence of the public in our ability to render justice by judges who are unimpaired … we have to take steps.”

The U.S. Constitution guaranteed federal judges lifetime appointments to maintain judicial independence by preventing the easy removal of judges for unpopular decisions.

But life expectancy when the Constitution was signed in 1787 was under 40. It is now about 79.

Some judges serve well beyond that age. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. is the oldest person to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, retiring in 1932 at the age of 90. U.S. District Court Judge Wesley Brown in Kansas was the oldest working federal judge in the country’s history when he died at the age of 104 in 2012.

Critics say the risk of cognitive decline is among several factors that favor imposing a retirement age or term limits on federal judges. Most states require appellate judges to retire between 70 to 75 years old, according to the National Center for State Courts. State judges may also face elections and generally can be removed by disciplinary commissions without turning to the state legislature.

“(Federal judges) could be independent and still have a retirement age,” said Paul Carrington, a law professor at Duke University. “I can’t believe policing themselves is a complete answer to the problem.”

With no requirement that federal judges undergo cognitive tests, it’s not known how many experience mental decline in their later years. Anecdotes from judges and court observers, however, indicate that it may be more than an isolated problem.

Richard Carlton, who runs the 9th Circuit’s counseling hotline, said he gets a handful of calls a year from judges concerned that a colleague may be impaired.

“A lot of these situations resolve themselves pretty quickly,” he said. “It oftentimes turns out to be some kind of physical condition or some new medication somebody’s taken, or they’re in the process of transitioning from senior status to full retirement.”

Over the past five years, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Colorado and five other Western states and has its own judicial health program, has addressed at least two complaints that could reflect mental decline.

One accused a senior district judge of falling asleep during a court proceeding.

The judge said a tiring family emergency may have been to blame and indicated that he would reduce his caseload and decline trials and lengthy hearings, according to a 2010 order by the circuit’s chief judge.

The second complaint by a judge’s former law clerk accused the judge of forgetfulness and erratic, abusive behavior. The judge underwent psychological screening and was cleared of any mental disability, according to a 2014 order by the circuit’s chief judge.

The judges and complainants were not identified.

Canby encourages his colleagues to get ahead of any complaints by, like him, voluntarily declining to regularly hear cases at some point. In an article in the 9th Circuit’s wellness newsletter, he said impaired judges threaten public confidence in the judicial branch.

“If a great majority of judges are determined to keep on judging until they are no longer mentally able to perform properly, instances of impaired judges still making decisions will multiply,” he wrote. “The consequence of such behavior will be an unacceptably high rate of institutional damage.” See the article here.Court addresses senility among judges head on _ Local _ Eugene, Oregon.

As someone ages there is a natural tendency to find it more difficult to focus, to think critically for a long period of time and some times even for a short period of time. I’ve seen that in my own life and I’m 30 years younger than Bill Crow. And as we age and if we find a case complicated I can only imagine that we drift to believe in people we know from our past business or personal experiences. If those past experiences were positive the more we would drift towards them. That’s why I have to take such a strong stance on past business partners of an arbitrator or Judge, especially senior ones, representing a strong bias threat and compromise to the judicial process.

I’ve taken a strong stance and have the unfortunate benefit of an overwhelmingly strong case for me and non-existently weak case for the bad guys. Those facts showcase that something went horribly wrong. Bias, corruption, influence from another Judge. Take your pick. It’s all darkness. It’s all evil. And it’s all too common.

Judge Canby. Thank you for being honorable to the end. You did not allow any one to manipulate you.

 

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