Ingham Circuit Judge Giddings reflects on retirement

Judge James Giddings, of the Ingham County Circuit Court, is retiring because he’s bumping against the state constitutional age-70 roadblock.

He says it might be time to rethink the age limit for holding judicial office.

In a conversation with Kyle Melinn of the Lansing-based CityPulse, Giddings said he’s been on the bench almost 40 years.

Giddings said he still has enough in him to keep going but isn’t sure he would have taken another ride on the electoral rollercoaster even without the constitutional barrier.

Realistically, being 70 years old today isn’t like being 70 years old back in the 1960s, when the latest draft of the Constitution was written, Giddings noted. People are living longer, more healthy lives. At age 70, Giddings said he could continue doing the job. Maybe at age 75, things would be different, he said. He’ll never know.

But if voters this November vote “yes” on Proposal 1 and call for a new constitutional convention to re-write Michigan’s guiding document, Giddings would suggest that delegates lift the current cap to more accurately reflect the changing times, be it 75 or 80.

Giddings, who frequently clashed with former governor John Engler, addressed Engler’s frequent claims that Giddings was a judicial activist.

“If anyone examined the rulings, they’d know I followed the law,” Giddings said. “Give him credit, John Engler was effective. But he used things I ruled on to give him stature with some constituencies.”

Engler claimed at the time that Giddings was a “judicial activist.” Now, Giddings accurately pointed out, Engler’s own judicial appointees, especially at the Supreme Court level, are being painted with the same brush.