Judges, an Aging Amendment and the Statutory Age of Senility


“Yes, Me Lud, kindly greetings.”

“Much obliged Your Worship.”

“With respect Your Honour.”

Lords, Justices and Right Honourables bewigged and bewildered in full ceremonial dress (in the UK). Full bottomed powdered wigs, lace cravats, cuffs and buckled shoes.

Found these images in a 1947 copy of The Sphere.


With all due respect, their Honours, so learned in the law, periwigged and peruked, look positively stern, dour and grumpy. Perhaps it’s the solemnity of the formal occasion requiring ritual, regalia, chivalry and utmost respect. Perhaps it’s their vintageness, their antiqueness. Mr. Justice Humphreys (born in 1867) was 80 at the time while the right honourable Lord Merriman took silk in 1919.

In Australia s72 of the Constitution establishes what is often regarded as the “statutory age of senility” or The Aging Amendment by providing for the mandatory retirement of High Court Justices at age 70.

There is, now, a sound argument to be made for increasing the age of retirement given that the make-up of the workforce has changed and life expectancy is much greater since the Amendment was passed almost 40 years ago. “It is widely recognised that judges are still able to perform legal duties to a high standard beyond age 70”.  Before the Amendment, the appointment was for life as it is for Justices of the Supreme Court of the USA.

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