Federal court asked to invalidate Pa. judge-retirement vote

3 x 2 vote sign voting booths
In the ballot question, voters would decide whether to raise the retirement age of state judges from 70 to 75.

Two former Pennsylvania Supreme Court chief justices and a prominent Philadelphia lawyer are now asking a federal court to declare a ballot question about extending state judges' retirement age unconstitutional and any votes cast on it invalid.

The complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court by former Chief Justices Ronald D. Castille and Stephen Zappala Sr. and Philadelphia lawyer Richard A. Sprague also asks for an injunction to prevent the tally of votes on the question. It comes less than two weeks before voters are to decide whether to raise the retirement age of state judges from 70 to 75.

"This case involves a demonstrably misleading ballot question and infringement of the inalienable right of Pennsylvania citizens to approve amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution," the complaint says.

The original wording asked voters whether the retirement age for the state's judges should be changed from 70 to 75. The current wording does not mention the age restriction, which the former chief justices and Sprague call misleading.

They sued this summer, saying the Republican-controlled legislature was trying to trick voters into approving it. Republicans said the original wording was confusing.

On Tuesday, the state Supreme Court deadlocked for a second time on whether to allow the justices' lawsuit to continue, a move which allowed the question to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

mbond@philly.com

610-313-8207 @MichaelleBond

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