By Rosemary Pollock
75-year-old LDS Judge Chafes at Mandatory Retirement Law
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- 3rd District Court Judge, Homer Wilkinson
will celebrate his 75th birthday on Saturday and become the first
Utah state judge to be forced into retirement by a 1996 statute that
capped judicial service at the age of 75. "I've worked all my life.
It's what my life is all about," said Wilkinson. He declined to
comment on the law, but said that it was a mistake for the Utah
Supreme Court to have included "senior judges" under the forced
Utah Supreme Court Justice Richard Howe will be next in line for
forced retirement, but will complete his current term at the end of
December 2002 at the age of 78 due to a "grandfather clause." Supreme
Court Justice Leonard Russon and Court of Appeals Judge Norman
Jackson are next to hit the age ceiling. The mandatory retirement law
is expected to stave off age-related disabilities.
Assistant Court Administrator Holly Bullen sees the number of judges
remaining constant at 17 in spite of the new law. "We lost two [to
the age cap] in December," she said. "However, we got two new ones."
"If you are alert, competent and in good health, it makes no sense
for them not to use that experience," Wilkinson said. "Each judge
should be evaluated on his own merits. Some judges who are 75 may be
over the hill. I still feel vibrant. I still have energy."
Wilkinson first considered a legal career when he served a mission to
six mid-Western states for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints. While on his mission, he discovered he enjoyed speaking in
public and while talking to groups about his religion, he enjoyed
"presenting my position to them."
Looking ahead, Wilkinson hopes to play more golf, take trips with his
wife and vacation at their second home in St. George. Wilkinson will
also consider a career as a legal mediator. "I can't get up and watch
television every day. I've got to have something to do."
Forced by New Law to Retire, Judge Not Ready to Go
Salt Lake Tribune 22Jan01 P2
By Stephen Hunt: Salt Lake Tribune