The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C.S. §§ 621 - 634, makes it unlawful for an "employer" "to discharge any individual who is at least 40 years old because of such individual's age. 29 U. S. C. S. §§ 623(a) and 631(a). The term "employer" is defined to include a state or political subdivision of a state. § 630(b)(2). Petitioners, state judges, argued that state law requiring judges to retire at age 70 violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 29 U.S.C.S §§ 621-634, and the Equal Protection Clause, U.S. Const. amend. XIV. Respondent governor's motion to dismiss was granted and affirmed because petitioners were not covered by the ADEA, and a rational basis existed for distinguishing judges who were over 70 from those who were not.
Petitioners sought review of the order of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit dismissing petitioners claim for age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C.S. §§ 621-634, and the Equal Protection Clause, U.S. Const. amend. XIV.
Did Missouri's mandatory retirement requirement for its state court judges violate the 1967 federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause?
No and No.
Missouri's mandatory retirement requirement for its state court judges did not violate either the ADEA or the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. In addition to emphasizing Missouri's, or any other state's, Tenth Amendment right to define the qualifications of its highest state officials, the Court held that the regulations of the ADEA did not apply to "policy-making" appointees such as state court judges. With respect to the petitioners' Equal Protection challenge, the Court employed a rational basis test to examine whether a rational relationship existed between Missouri's goal of promoting competent state court judges and its retirement requirement. Noting the connection between increasing age and declining mental and physical capacities, the Court held that Missouri's retirement requirement for judges who reach the age of seventy was not unreasonable.