LAKE CHARLES, La. — Retired Judge Thomas Quirk is back on the bench.
Quirk was forced to retire in 2014 from Lake Charles City Court — where he’d served for 36 years — because his 70th birthday fell just before another six-year election term.
But in July, Quirk told The American Press (http://bit.ly/2cgH3qC) he saw a way back in.
Judges in 14th Judicial District Court approved a new position a year ago that allows a retired judge to be appointed by the state Supreme Court under the title of judge supernumerary, with no age limitation. Quirk pursued the position once the existing supernumerary, Judge Arthur Planchard, retired in June.
“This job is a lifesaver to me,” Quirk said.
He said going to work every day gives him much more fulfillment than spending time by himself. He said he’s “happy as a tick on a dog” to be able to do what he loves again.
Quirk said state laws requiring judges to retire after age 70 amount to “age discrimination.” He believes people are sufficiently protected from errant judges through the re-election process and the judiciary committee – which has the authority to impeach judges.
“I think that if a person has the mental ability and the physical ability to do their job, they should be allowed to do it,” Quirk said.
The supernumerary position gave him that opportunity.
His salary is paid by the Police Jury and is re-evaluated every six months by the other district judges. The position allows Quirk to take misdemeanor pleas — meaning he can preside over misdemeanor trials — though he is unable to preside over felony trials.
Judge Clayton Davis said the move gives other judges the chance to devote more time to felony cases. He said the supernumerary position has made positive changes at the district court and that Quirk was a solid choice for the job.
“Quirk was a great fit because he’s retired, energetic and really wants this job,” Davis said.
Although the return to work will limit time with his grandchildren, Quirk said his close-knit family won’t be fazed by a little adjustment in hours.
Over the past two years, Quirk said he’s kept himself busy with family, temporary judicial work and church volunteering. He handled felony arraignments at the District Attorney’s Office for a short time and filled in via temporary appointment at Sulphur and Lafayette city courts when a judge was ill or had a conflict of interest.
He said he plans to stay on the bench “as long as they’ll let me.”
Information from: American Press, http://www.americanpress.com