There is no age limit for a president? Ask the Lawyer – San Bernardino Sun


Q: Currently we have two people, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, the latter of whom can run again and possibly win. Both are in their 60s; Biden turns 80 in November and Trump, if he were to become president again, would be 80 during his term. Don’t we have an age limit for presidents?

DN, Hawthorne

Ron Sokol

A: The United States Constitution states that to become president, an individual must: (1) be at least 35 years old, (2) be a resident for 14 years, and (3) be a born citizen of the United States. Recent reports, however, indicate that the majority of Americans believe there should be an age limit for elected officials, including the president. But what is “too old”?

Perhaps term limits are a solution, even if the counter-argument is that it takes time to gain a foothold, build relationships, and thus become more productive. With respect to the terms of a president, the 22nd Amendment was enacted to prohibit presidential candidates from serving more than two terms (or 10 years if serving the remainder of another president’s term) in the years following followed the election of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to four terms during the Great Depression and World War II.

The 25th Amendment allows an ailing president to resign; if the ailing president is unwilling, there is a process by which the vice president can assume presidential powers and duties.

Ultimately, it will likely take a constitutional amendment to establish a maximum age for any president. The concern about the president’s age is not unwarranted, but we know that many people are very productive in their later years, including their 80s. Thus, the decision of whether or not to set a maximum age is the subject of healthy debate.

Q: Supreme Court justices are appointed for life?

JG, Irvin

A: Members of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President, subject to the approval of the US Senate. Judges serve for life during “good conduct”. You may have noticed that several judges in recent memory have retired (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is an exception, having died while still in the field). To date, only two Supreme Court Justices have been removed (i.e. impeached) for misconduct. In practice, appointment to the Supreme Court is therefore “for life”.

Ron Sokol has been a practicing lawyer for over 35 years and has also served as a pro tem judge, mediator and arbitrator on several occasions. It is important to keep in mind that this column presents a summary of the law and should not be treated or taken as legal advice, much less a substitute for genuine consultation with a qualified professional.


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