Airline pilots must retire at age 60. Executives at many companies have to step down at 65. Florida judges are required to quit at 70. But U.S. Supreme Court justices, nine of the most powerful people in the nation, have no retirement age, notes the St. Petersburg Times. Like all federal judges, they can serve as long as they want, even though some have become senile or incapacitated on the job.
In the 1890s, Justice Stephen J. Field became so senile that he could not understand attorneys during court sessions and needed to be coached how to vote. In the 1970s, after his stroke at 76, Justice William O. Douglas became so confused that other justices made a secret pact to postpone cases in which he could cast a deciding vote. Today, with 80-year-old Chief Justice William Rehnquist suffering from thyroid cancer but vowing to keep his job, there’s growing support for a mandatory retirement age or a rule that would force justices to quit if they can’t handle the job.