Gov. Neil Abercrombie wants to change the state law that requires Hawaii judges and justices to retire at age 70.

While he did not specify whether he wanted to increase the mandatory retirement age or eliminate it altogether, Abercrombie said the age limit does not benefit Hawaii.

“As a matter of fact, it’s a dead end,” he said, after first calling the age limit a barrier and an obstacle. “It deprives us of the opportunity to take full advantage of those who have had a career that has given them some depth of perception, of analysis and capacity that actually deprives us of legal minds and administrative capacity that would be most welcome on the Supreme Court.”

The governor made his remarks Tuesday in executive chambers at the Capitol as he announced the nomination of Judge Richard Pollack to fill a vacancy on the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Pollack, 61, has served in the Circuit Court since 2000. The nomination requires state Senate confirmation.

Abercrombie called Pollack “a judge’s judge” who has the respect of his colleagues and an impressive record. But he said the age limit is a hindrance to attracting a wider pool of judicial applicants.

“It is extraordinarily difficult, I think, for the Judicial Selection (Commission) now to consider those that might otherwise be not only qualified but highly desirable in terms of an appointment,” he said. “I think the sooner that that can get dropped, the better.”

The governor said he intends to bring the matter up with the Legislature.

Reverence for Age, Wisdom

Abercrombie, who turns 74 this year, argues that courts are especially missing out on the benefit of experience.

“We used to, as I recall, have some degree of reverence and respect for age and wisdom that might be associated with a number of years of experience in life,” he said. “And where the court is concerned, it seems to me that this is especially valuable.”

Without going into detail, the governor said the decision to have an age limit had to do with politics — “the kind that I would prefer not to see be involved in the selection of judges and justices.”

Asked if the law might be changed in time to impact Associate Justice Simeon Acoba, who turns 70 in March 2014, Abercrombie said he wasn’t sure “that can be done legally.”

For now, the governor is hoping that his views will “receive a favorable reception in the Legislature. We’d have to have legislation — I intend to look into that.”

The Legislature has considered changing the retirement age from 70 to 80.

In 2006, voters rejected by 58-35 percent a constitutional amendment to change the law.

But that ballot issue was tainted by politics, as it was seen by many as a deliberate effort by Democrats to prevent then-Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, from replacing then-Chief Justice Ron Moon upon his retirement.

Lingle later appointed Mark Recktenwald to the position after her first choice, Kate Leonard, was rejected by the Senate.

Pollack made brief remarks as he stood alongside the governor on Tuesday. He said he had great reverence for the Hawaii Constitution and its Bill of Rights and that he believed he had a reputation as a fair jurist.

If approved by the Senate, Pollack will join a court that leans left on issues related to the environment, criminal defense and Native Hawaiians. He would be Abercrombie’s second appointment to the high court.

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