Current law requires a judge to retire immediately when reaching age 75

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

While many of the 16 constitutional amendments that appear on Tuesday's ballot concern issues in other parts of the state, Proposition 14 will have a direct impact on at least one local district judge.

Proposition 14 is a constitutional amendment that would permit a justice or judge who reaches the mandatory retirement age while in office to serve the remainder of the justice's or judge's current term.

Under the current system adopted in 1965, a justice or judge who reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75 years must retire immediately, regardless of how much time is remaining in the term to which they were elected.

District Judge Alex Gabert, of the 229th Judicial District, is in the middle of a term that is not scheduled to end until 2010. On Aug. 31, 2008, however, Gabert will turn 75 years old and under the current law will be required to retire.

Officials with the judge's office confirmed that he does fall under the restrictions that are addressed by the proposition, but said that rules imposed by the Texas Secretary of State prevent the judge or his representatives from speaking for or against the issue.

According to the Texas Legislative Council, an entity whose chairmen include the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the house, supporters of the amendment believe changing the law will make it more in line with the "intent of the electorate," who voted the judge or justice into office.

Supporters believe that requiring a judge or justice to retire during their term disrupts the efficiency of the judicial system and causes unnecessary delays.

The Texas Legislative Council reports that opponents of the amendment believe that mandatory retirement is a way to remove an aging justice or judge who is continuing to serve despite ineffectiveness. Other opponents believe that mandatory retirement should be abolished and criticize the amendment for not going far enough to accomplish this.

Early voting for the constitutional amendments ended Friday, and the election is Tuesday.