Bill to raise judicial retirement age would allow Newby to serve full term

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  • House Bill 71 would raise North Carolina's mandatory judicial retirement age from 72 to 76.
  • The change would allow state Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby to serve his full term through 2028.
  • The bill also could affect the next Supreme Court election, since Justice Michael Morgan would be able to serve almost seven years beyond the 2024 election.

A bill filed Wednesday in the N.C. House would raise North Carolina’s mandatory judicial retirement age from 72 to 76.

If approved, House Bill 71 could help state Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby serve his full eight-year term. Without action, Newby would be forced to retire no later than May 30, 2027. That would cut off the last 19 months of his term. The state’s next governor would appoint a replacement chief justice.

With a change in law, Newby could complete his term. He also could seek re-election in 2028. But he would be able to serve less than 2 ½ years of a second eight-year term as chief. Voters elected Newby, a Republican, as chief justice in 2020. He had served 16 years as an associate justice.

A relaxed mandatory retirement age also could influence the next Supreme Court election. Associate Justice Michael Morgan, a Democrat, can serve his full term through 2024. If Morgan chooses to run for re-election, current rules would force him to retire by Oct. 31, 2027, less than three years into an eight-year term.

With a mandatory retirement age of 76, Morgan could serve through Oct. 31, 2031, almost seven full years into an eight-year term.

Morgan has not announced publicly whether he plans to run for re-election. His seat is the only Supreme Court post scheduled for the 2024 election. Carolina Journal has reported that current N.C. Appeals Court Judge Jefferson Griffin, a Republican, plans to run for the seat.

Current state law says “No justice or judge of the General Court of Justice may continue in office beyond the last day of the month in which he attains his seventy-second birthday.”

House Bill 71 would replace “he” with “the justice or judge.” It would replace “his seventy-second birthday” with “76 years of age.”

As under current law, justices and judges who have reached mandatory retirement age “may be recalled for periods of temporary service.”

Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, and Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, sponsored H.B. 71. Three Republican colleagues had signed onto the measure by Wednesday afternoon.