Election Day is coming up again. While many people will be focusing on the local races, there are a few referendums that will also be included on this year's ballot. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman has a look at what voters can expect to see on November 5th.
NEW YORK STATE -- Voters next month will decide whether the retirement age for state judges should be lifted from 70 to 80. It's a constitutional amendment that supporters say will update the state's existing laws and increase a retirement age that hasn't been reformed since the 19th century.
"It pragmatically solves a problem. It says we have an increasing case load, we have judges that are being forced to retire too early and let's create a way to allow us to attack both," said Bruce Gyory, Justice For All Executive Director.
Gyory is leading a group called Justice For All. Gyory says that in addition to help alleviate a backlog of cases, the amendment would end age discrimination for capable judges forced into retirement.
Gyory said, "It's a nice way of solving the case load problem as well as striking a blow against age discrimination."
The committee is being funded some of the state's most-profile law firms and has already spent $40,000 on polling and nearly $100,000 on mail, Board of Elections records show. None of the money comes from sitting judges, who are barred from that kind of political spending. But the funding of the committee by attorneys with business potentially before state courts and judges who would personally benefit from the amendment passing does raise ethical questions. And even on other ballot issues, such committees are troubling to good-government groups.
"Where you have sky high contributions and PACs supporting a particular measure that can raise buckets of money, it really raises the question if you can have a fair contest," said Susan Lerner, Common Cause Executive Director.
But Gyory argues attorneys benefit from having judges who know the law and have years of experience staying on the bench.
"They're saying as practitioners, we would benefit from having more experienced judges, I repeat, in the prime of their career," Gyory said.
And there's an added twist to the amendment: Should it fail, mandatory retirements would allow Governor Andrew Cuomo to entirely remake the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, if he wins a second term. Gyory says the amendment does not infringe on the governor's right to nominate judges.
Gyory said, "I don't think that will end if several judges are allowed to stay on."
The amendment is one of six constitutional changes New Yorkers will consider in November.