Six judges who have sued to overturn the state constitutional provision requiring their retirement at 70 claim that it is discriminatory under the U.S. Constitution.

They're probably right. But the real problem with the rule is its practical consequences.

Many older judges who are forced to retire prove every day that there is no practical justification for the requirement. They often take "senior" status and perform exactly the same functions that they performed when they were 69, but for less compensation.

The common pleas judges who sued in Commonwealth Court are from Philadelphia and Westmoreland and Northampton counties. At the local level, voters often are quite familiar with the candidates seeking judgeships. They know the candidates' ages when they elect new judges or retain sitting judges for 10-year terms, which the judges should be able to complete absent some specific reason - rather than their age alone - that they can't perform their duties.

Moreover, the system should encourage older, highly experienced and well-qualified lawyers to ascend to the bench to cap their careers with a decade or more of public service.

If the judges fail to overturn the provision in court, the Legislature should begin the process of amending the state constitution to eliminate the retirement provision.