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Gregory v. Ashcroft

Judges Challenge Mandatory Retirement, Both Claims Overturned Again, Petitioners Assert Portions Of Act Not Applicable


Ellis Gregory, Jr., Anthony P. Nugent, Jr.


John D. Ashcroft, Governor of Missouri

Petitioners' Claim

The Missouri Constitution's mandatory retirement provision required retirement of state judges over age 70. Petitioners claimed it violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it irrationally distinguished between old and younger judges, and between state judges and other state officials not subject to the mandatory retirement provision.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioners

Jim J. Shoemaker

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

James B. Deutsch

Justices for the Court

Anthony M. Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor (writing for the Court), William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter, John Paul Stevens, Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting

Harry A. Blackmun, Thurgood Marshall


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

20 June 1991


The Missouri mandatory retirement provision did not violate the ADEA because its language did not explicitly protect state judges. Neither was the Equal Protection Clause violated because the Court ruled the ADEA rationally furthered the state interest of providing fully functioning judiciaries.


Missouri's Constitution was challenged as being in violation of federal statute and the U.S. Constitution; however, the Supreme Court rejected petitioners' arguments. The Court held that a state's constitutional provision concerning such an important issue as the right to define the qualifications of a state's highest officials could not be overridden if it did not explicitly oppose federal statutes.

Related Cases

  • Massachusetts Board of Retirement v. Murgia, 427 U.S. 307 (1976).
  • Penhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 451 U.S. 1 (1981).
  • EEOC v. Wyoming, 460 U.S. 226 (1983).
  • Chevron USA v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984).
  • Atascadero State Hospital v. Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234 (1985).
  • Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 191 U.S. 58 (1989).

Additional topics

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