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How A Judge Tackles Age Discrimination

The growth in population of those 65 or older continues to increase. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of US citizens over 65 will exceed 71,000, more than doubling the 2000 census count.

Senior citizens are not only growing in number, they are more active and shunning retirement in favor of working well into their seventies.

As Court of Appeals Judge Peter O'Connell, 67, faced the final years of his current term, he decided to explore a more creative option to continue his judicial career.

Michigan law bans judges over age 70 from seeking re-election. Judge O'Connell's 70th birthday, three months before the filing deadline, makes him ineligible to continue upon expiration of his term in January 2019.

Judge O'Connell's solution was to file paperwork for a 2016 re-election as the incumbent for the 4th District instead of waiting for the 2018 vote in his home district. However, Michigan's Secretary of State ruled that while O'Connell could run, he could not claim incumbency, a significant advantage. The actual incumbent is Appeals Judge Michael Gadola.

In a letter, the State Director of Elections informed O'Connell that he also needed to gather enough signatures to appear on the ballot.

 The correspondence is now evidence. Equating the 1955 law (the state's only age requirement) to age discrimination, Judge O'Connell is challenging the ban by filing a lawsuit against the state.

Opponents claim the need to reduce judgeships based on retirees' caseloads and the advantage incumbents enjoy. O'Connell alleges clear-cut discriminatory practices. Any type of age, gender, national origin, race, religion, or disability discrimination is intolerable and illegal.

Regardless of the entity committing the act and their reasoning behind it, legal representation is vital.

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