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Methods of Judicial Selection

Judicial Nominating Commissions

Alabama

Judicial nominating commissions are used to fill vacancies in Baldwin, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Madison, Mobile, Shelby, Talladega, and Tuscaloosa Counties. Each county determines the size, composition, and procedures for its nominating commission. For details on the commissions in each county, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Alaska

Established by the Alaska Constitution at statehood, the Alaska Judicial Council solicits and screens applicants for judicial vacancies on all levels of courts and submits the names of at least two nominees to the governor for appointment. The judicial council is composed of three nonlawyer members appointed by the governor and confirmed by a majority of the legislature in joint session, three lawyer members appointed by the board of governors of the Alaska Bar Association, and the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, who serves as the ex officio chair. The constitution requires that judicial council appointments be made "with due consideration to area representation and without regard to political affiliation." Council members serve staggered six-year terms, except for the chief justice who serves for three years. Click here to view the AJC bylaws regarding judicial nominations.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $119,457 (2007)
    Includes travel, printing, advertising, and questionnaire collection but not staff time for Alaska Judicial Council.

Arizona

There are three judicial nominating commissions in Arizona: the commission on appellate court appointments, the Maricopa County commission on trial court appointments, and the Pima County commission on trial court appointments. Each commission consists of sixteen members, including five lawyers and ten nonlawyers. The lawyer members are nominated by the board of governors of the State Bar of Arizona and appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate. The nonlawyer members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate. The chief justice or a designated associate justice of the supreme court serves as chair. Commission members must have lived in Arizona for at least five years, and lawyer members must have practiced law in Arizona for five years. No more than three lawyer members and no more than five nonlawyer members may belong to the same political party. Regarding the commission on appellate court appointments, no more than two lawyer members and no more than two nonlawyer members may be residents of the same county. With respect to the commissions on trial court appointments, no lawyer members and no more than two nonlawyer members may be residents of the same supervisorial district. Commission members serve staggered, four-year terms.

When a vacancy occurs, the appropriate commission announces that applications are being accepted. After investigating and interviewing applicants, the commission submits a list of at least three nominees to the governor. No more than 60% of the nominees may be members of the same political party. If the governor fails to appoint one of the commission's nominees within sixty days, the chief justice makes the appointment from the list of nominees. Click here to view the commissions' rules of procedures and here for more information about the commissions. 

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Arkansas

Judicial nominating commissions are not used to screen judicial candidates in Arkansas.

California

Judicial nominating commissions are not used to recommend judicial candidates in California.

Colorado

When a vacancy occurs on the supreme court, court of appeals, district court, or county court, a judicial nominating commission recommends to the governor qualified candidates to fill the vacancy. Three names are submitted for appellate court vacancies, and two or three are submitted for trial court vacancies. The governor must appoint a judge from the nominating commission's list.

The supreme court nominating commission, which recommends candidates to fill vacancies on the state's appellate courts, is composed of fifteen members: the chief justice, who serves as a non-voting chair, one lawyer from each of the state's seven congressional districts, and one nonlawyer from each congressional district. There is a judicial district nominating commission for each of Colorado's twenty-two judicial districts. District nominating commissions, which recommend candidates for vacancies on the district and county courts, consist of a supreme court justice, who serves as a non-voting chair, and seven residents of the judicial district. In districts with populations greater than 35,000, there are three lawyer members and four nonlawyer members. In districts with populations less than 35,000, at least four members are nonlawyers, and it is determined by majority vote of the governor, attorney general, and chief justice how many members will be lawyers.

Lawyer members of these commissions are appointed by majority action of the governor, attorney general, and chief justice; nonlawyer members are appointed by the governor. Excluding the supreme court justice who serves on the commission, no more than half the commission members plus one may belong to the same political party. Commission members serve six-year terms. Click here for links to commission rules.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $15,510 (2007)
  • $10,535 (2006)
  • $13,205 (2005)

Connecticut

The judicial selection commission is composed of twelve members. Two members are appointed from each congressional district--one lawyer and one nonlawyer. The six lawyer members are appointed by the governor; the six nonlawyer members are appointed by the president pro tempore of the senate, the speaker of the house of representatives, the majority leaders of the house and senate, and the minority leaders of the house and senate. No more than six commission members may belong to the same political party. In addition, commission members may not be elected or appointed state officials or hold statewide office in a political party. Commission members serve three-year terms.

The commission screens candidates for vacancies on the superior court, appellate court, and supreme court and submits a list of candidates to the governor. The governor must nominate a candidate from the list. The commission also evaluates incumbent judges who seek reappointment and forwards to the governor the names of incumbents who are recommended for reappointment. Click here for statutes regarding the composition and here for rules governing the operation of the commission.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $106,600 (2006)
  • $98,452 (2005)
  • $92,816 (2004)

Delaware

Since 1977, Delaware governors have established by executive order a judicial nominating commission to identify highly qualified candidates for judicial appointments. Delaware's current commission operates pursuant to Executive Order No. 4 and applies to the appointment of judges of the supreme court, the superior court, the court of chancery, the family court, and the court of common pleas, and to the appointment of the chief magistrate of the justice of the peace courts. A magistrate screening committee is used for associate magistrates of the justice of the peace courts.

The judicial nominating commission is composed of eleven members. The governor appoints ten members, including at least four lawyers and at least four nonlawyers. The president of the Delaware State Bar Association nominates with the governor's consent the eleventh member, who is then appointed by the governor. The governor designates the commission's chairperson. Commissioners serve staggered, three-year terms and may be reappointed by the governor. No more than six commissioners may be members of the same political party at the time of their appointment.

When a judicial vacancy occurs, the commission submits the names of at least three candidates to the governor. The governor may decline to nominate someone from this list and may request a supplemental list of no fewer than three names. The governor must nominate a candidate from one of these lists, unless the senate fails to confirm the nominee. Sitting judges apply to the commission for reappointment. The commission must recommend their reappointment unless at least two thirds of the members of the commission object.

In the past, the Delaware State Bar Association has played a more active role than it does currently in the judicial selection process. Some governors have allowed the bar's judicial appointments committee to comment on commission nominees before the list is submitted to the governor, indicating whether nominees are qualified to serve.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $8000 (2007)
  • $8000 (2006)
  • $8000 (2005)

District of Columbia

When a vacancy occurs on a D.C. court, the judicial nomination commission must submit to the president within sixty days a list of three nominees to fill the vacancy. The commission consists of seven members who serve six-year terms. The president appoints one member to the commission, the board of governors of the D.C. Bar appoints two lawyer members, the mayor of D.C. appoints one lawyer and one nonlawyer member, the D.C. Council appoints one nonlawyer member, and the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia appoints an active or retired D.C. federal judge. Commission members may not be nominated to D.C. judgeships within two years of leaving the commission. Click here for more information regarding the composition and operation of the commission.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Federal

N/A

Florida

There are twenty-six judicial nominating commissions that screen applicants for vacancies on Florida courts and recommend qualified candidates to the governor: the statewide nominating commission for the supreme court (rules), a commission for each of the five district courts of appeal (rules), and a commission for each of the twenty judicial circuits (rules). For all vacancies on the supreme court and district courts of appeal and for mid-term vacancies on the circuit and county courts, the appropriate nominating commission submits a list of three to six nominees. The governor must appoint one of the commission's nominees.

Each nominating commission consists of nine members appointed by the governor. Four members are lawyers appointed from lists of nominees submitted by the Florida Bar. Of the remaining five members, at least two must be lawyers. Members must be residents of the jurisdiction the commission serves. In making the appointments, the governor is to ensure that, to the extent possible, the membership of each commission reflects the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity and geographic distribution of the relevant jurisdiction. Members serve four-year terms.

In 1991, the Florida legislature altered the composition of the state's judicial nominating commissions to provide that one third of all members be women or members of a racial or ethnic minority group. A white male who applied for a commission vacancy was rejected because the position was reserved for a woman or minority, and he filed a suit challenging the constitutionality of the diversity provision. The federal district court found that the provision violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Mallory v. Harkness, 895 F.Supp. 1556 (S.D. Fla. 1995). The decision was affirmed by the court of appeals without reported opinion in 1997.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $13,000 (2007)

Georgia

In 1972, Governor Carter became the first Georgia governor to establish a judicial nominating commission by executive order. Subsequent governors have followed Carter's example. Under the current executive order, the judicial nominating commission recommends candidates to fill vacancies on the supreme court, court of appeals, superior court, and state court. The commission consists of eighteen members who are appointed by the governor and who serve at his pleasure. Appointments to the commission are "made with a view toward equitable geographic representation and . . reflect the diversity of the State's citizenry." The commission recommends five candidates to the governor for each judicial vacancy, unless fewer than five applicants are found to be qualified. There is no requirement that the governor appoint a candidate from the nominating commission's list. For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $5000 (2007)
    Costs are generally determined by the number of vacancies and where they occur.

Hawaii

The judicial selection commission reviews and evaluates applicants for all judicial vacancies and submits a list of four to six names to the governor. (For vacancies on the district and family courts, a list of at least six names is submitted to the chief justice.) The commission also determines whether judges should be retained in office upon the expiration of their terms. Judges must notify the commission within six months of the expiration of their term that they plan to seek retention. The commission solicits public comment and interviews those who have had contact with the judge. The judge completes a questionnaire and is interviewed by the full commission. A judge must receive at least five favorable votes to be retained.

The commission consists of nine members, no more than four of whom may be lawyers. The governor appoints two members, only one of whom may be an attorney. The president of the senate and the speaker of the house of representatives each appoint two members to the commission. The chief justice appoints one commission member, and the Hawaii State Bar Association selects two lawyer members. Commission members serve staggered six-year terms, and members are limited to one term. Click here to view the commission's rules.

 For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $93,843 (2007)

Idaho

When vacancies occur on the supreme court, court of appeals, or district court, the Idaho Judicial Council submits the names of two to four nominees to the governor. The governor must choose an appointee from the list.

The Idaho Judicial Council has seven members, including the chief justice who serves as chairperson. Three members are lawyers (at least one must be a district judge) selected by the board of commissioners of the Idaho State Bar with the consent of the state senate. Three nonlawyer members are chosen by the governor with the consent of the state senate. No more than three of the appointed members may belong to the same political party. Members serve six-year terms. Click here to view the IJC's rules of procedure regarding judicial nominations and here for more information about the Council itself.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $126,400 (2007)
    This is the yearly budget of the Idaho Judicial Council, which is also responsible for judicial discipline.

Illinois

Judicial nominating commissions are not used to screen judicial candidates in Illinois.

Indiana

The commission on judicial qualifications also serves as the judicial nominating commission, which recruits and interviews applicants for vacancies on the supreme court, court of appeals, and tax court, and forwards to the governor the names of three nominees for each position. The nominating commission also selects the chief justice of the supreme court. The commission consists of seven members: the chief justice, who serves as chair; one lawyer elected from each of the three geographic court of appeals districts by bar members in that district; and one nonlawyer appointed by the governor from each geographic court of appeals district. Commission members serve three-year terms and may not be reappointed or reelected. Click here for statutes regarding the composition and operation of the state judicial nominating commission.

Superior court judges in Lake and St. Joseph Counties are appointed by the governor from candidates submitted by local judicial nominating commissions. The nominating commission for the superior court of Lake County consists of nine members: the chief justice or an appellate judge designated by the chief justice, who serves as chair; four lawyers elected by members of the bar in the county; and four nonlawyers appointed by the Lake County board of commissioners. At least one lawyer and one nonlawyer member must be a minority, and at least two lawyer and two nonlawyer members must be women. No more than two of the nonlawyer members may belong to the same political party. Commission members serve four-year terms. The nominating commission for the superior court of St. Joseph County consists of seven members: a judge of the supreme court or court of appeals appointed by the governor; three lawyers elected by bar members in the county, and three nonlawyers appointed by a selection commission made up of the St. Joseph circuit court judge, the president of the St. Joseph County board of commissioners, and the mayors of St. Joseph County's two largest cities. No more than two lawyer members, and no more than four commission members, may belong to the same political party. Commission members serve four-year terms. Click here for statutes regarding the composition and operation of the Lake County judicial nominating commission, and here for the St. Joseph County commission.

In Allen County, a local judicial nominating commission recommends candidates to the governor to fill mid-term vacancies on the superior court. The commission consists of seven members: the chief justice or an appellate judge designated by the chief justice, who serves as chair; three lawyer members elected by bar members in the county; and three nonlawyers, no more than two of whom may belong to the same political party, appointed by the governor. Commission members serve four-year terms.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Iowa

The state judicial nominating commission identifies nominees to fill vacancies on the supreme court and court of appeals. The commission consists of fifteen members--a chairperson and one elected and one appointed member from each of the state's congressional districts. (Although there are currently only five congressional districts in Iowa, selection of commission members is based on the seven congressional districts that existed in 1969 when the authorizing legislation was passed.) The chairperson is the senior associate justice of the supreme court. The elected members are chosen by resident members of the bar in each congressional district, and the appointed members are chosen by the governor, subject to senate confirmation. Commission members serve one six-year term. The state judicial nominating commission submits a list of three nominees for each vacancy.

There is a district judicial nominating commission for each of the fourteen judicial election districts. Each district commission consists of eleven members--a chairperson, five members appointed by the governor, and five members elected by the bar. The senior judge in each district serves as chairperson.  Information about district judicial nominating comissions and county magistrate appointing commissions can be found here.  The commissions are governed by Iowa Code sections 46.xx, 602.63xx, 602.64xx,  and 602.65xx.

 

To ensure gender balance on the state judicial nominating commission, each congressional district must alternate between electing male and female members, and the governor cannot appoint more than four members of the same gender. For each district judicial nominating commission, the bar must alternate between electing male and female members, and the governor may not appoint more than three members of the same gender.

Iowa actively seeks citizen participation in the nominating process by issuing a news release to the media whenever a vacancy occurs. Any citizen may submit to the commission in writing the names of potential judicial candidates, along with his or her opinion of the candidates.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Kansas

The supreme court nominating commission submits a list of qualified individuals to the governor for supreme court appointments.  The statutes governing the supreme court nominating commission can be found in Chapter 20, Article 1, Section 119 of the Kansas Statutes Annotated (K.S.A.).  The supreme court nominating commission is composed of five lawyer members and four nonlawyer members (one lawyer and one nonlawyer member from each congressional district, and one additional lawyer member who serves as chairperson). Lawyer members are elected by their peers in each congressional district, and nonlawyer members are appointed by the governor. Commission members serve four-year terms.

There are judicial nominating commissions for each judicial district. The statutes governing the district court nominating commissions can be found in Chapter 20, Article 29 of the Kansas Statutes Annotated (K.S.A.):  Nonpartisan Selection of Judges of the District Court.  The size of each commission varies according to the number of counties in the judicial district. However, there must be an equal number of lawyers and nonlawyers on each commission. Lawyer members are elected by their peers in each judicial district, and nonlawyer members are appointed by the board of county commissioners. A supreme court justice or district court judge from another district serves as chairperson. Commissioners serve four-year terms.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $100,000 (2007)

Kentucky

Judicial nominating commissions screen candidates for interim judicial vacancies and provide the governor with a list of three names. The governor must appoint a judge from this list. There is one nominating commission for the appellate courts, one for each judicial circuit, and one for each judicial district. Each commission is composed of seven members, and the chief justice serves as chair. Two commission members are lawyers elected by the Kentucky Bar Association, and the remaining four members are nonlawyers appointed by the governor. Among the four nonlawyer members, there must be two members from each of the state's two largest political parties. Commission members serve four-year terms. Click here to view commission rules and here for the statute governing the commission.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Louisiana

Judicial nominating commissions are not used to screen judicial candidates in Louisiana.

Maine

*Governor LePage established by executive order a fourteen-member judicial selection committee to "advise [him] about matters related to judicial appointments and recommend candidates to fill vacancies." Members include a representative from the attorney general's office and practicing attorneys. When a judicial vacancy occurs, the governor nominates a candidate to fill the vacancy. The legislature's joint standing committee on the judiciary recommends by majority vote that the nominee be confirmed or denied. The committee's recommendation is reviewed by the senate and becomes final unless two thirds of the senate votes to override the recommendation.

Maryland

In 2007, Governor O'Malley issued an executive order creating an appellate courts judicial nominating commission and sixteen regional trial courts judicial nominating commissions.  A summary of the appointment and retention of all levels of judges can be found at the Maryland State Board of Election's website.  The commissions are charged with nominating individuals who are "legally and most fully professionally qualified" for judicial vacancies. Commission members are appointed by the governor and by the state bar. For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $24,636 (2006)
  • $18,851 (2005)
  • $24,866 (2004)

Massachusetts

In 1975, Governor Dukakis adopted an executive order establishing a judicial nominating commission to screen candidates for judicial vacancies. Since that time, each of Massachusetts' governors has utilized a nominating commission to appoint judges.

Under Executive Order 500, the judicial nominating commission advises the governor regarding appointments to the appeals court and trial court departments. The commission screens applicants for the supreme judicial court at the governor's discretion. The commission's twenty-one members are appointed by the governor and serve one-year terms at the governor's pleasure. The commission screens applicants and submits a list of three to six candidates to governor. The governor may decline to nominate one of these candidates, request further recommendations from the commission, or request that the application process be reopened.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Michigan

Judicial nominating commissions are not used to screen judicial candidates in Michigan.

Minnesota

In 1989, the Minnesota legislature created the commission on judicial selection to advise the governor on appointments to the district court. Although not required to do so by statute, some governors have used the commission to screen candidates for the supreme court and court of appeals as well. When a vacancy occurs on the district court, the commission evaluates applicants for the position and submits the names of three to five nominees to the governor. The governor is not required to appoint a judge recommended by the commission.

The commission on judicial selection consists of forty-nine members, including twenty-seven who are appointed by the governor and twenty-two who are appointed by the supreme court. Nine commission members are appointed at large and participate in filling all vacancies; four members are appointed from each of the state's ten judicial districts and participate only when vacancies occur in their respective districts. The governor and the supreme court are required to appoint both lawyers and nonlawyers. The governor's appointees serve at the pleasure of the governor, while the supreme court's appointees serve four-year terms that end when the governor's term ends. Click here for statutes regarding the commission's composition and operation.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $5000 (2007)

Mississippi

Judicial nominating commissions are not used to screen judicial candidates in Mississippi.

Missouri

Judges of the supreme court, court of appeals, and circuit courts in Jackson, Clay, Platte, and St. Louis Counties and in the city of St. Louis are appointed by the governor from a list of three names submitted by a nonpartisan judicial commission. The appellate judicial commission nominates candidates for the supreme court and court of appeals, and the appropriate circuit judicial commission nominates candidates for the circuit courts.

The appellate judicial commission consists of seven members: a supreme court justice chosen by the other justices, one lawyer selected from each of the three appellate districts by Missouri Bar members in that district, and one nonlawyer selected from each appellate district by the governor. Each circuit judicial commission is composed of five members: the chief judge of the court of appeals district in which the judicial circuit is located, two lawyers selected from the circuit by Missouri Bar members in that circuit, and two nonlawyers residing in the circuit appointed by the governor. Commission members serve six-year terms. Click here and here to view commission rules and here for the statute governing the commissions.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $7741 (2007)

Montana

When an interim vacancy occurs on the supreme court, the district court, or the workers' compensation court, the judicial nomination commission screens candidates and provides the governor with a list of three to five nominees. The commission also submits a report that includes specific reasons for recommending each nominee. The governor must appoint a nominee from the commission's list. The judicial nomination commission also provides the chief justice with a list of nominees for all vacancies in the office of chief water judge.

The judicial nomination commission is composed of seven members. Four nonlawyer members, who reside in different areas of the state and each of whom represents a different industry, business, or profession, are appointed by the governor. Two lawyer members from different parts of the state are appointed by the supreme court, and one district court judge is elected by other district court judges. Members of the commission serve staggered four-year terms and may not serve more than two full terms. Click here for statutes relating to the judicial nomination commission.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $2906 (2006)

Nebraska

In Nebraska, there are judicial nominating commissions for the chief justiceship, for each district of the supreme court, court of appeals, and district court, and for the courts of limited jurisdiction, making a total of thirty-three commissions. Each nominating commission consists of four lawyers elected by the Nebraska State Bar Association, four nonlawyers appointed by the governor, and a supreme court justice who serves as a non-voting chair. No more than two lawyers and two nonlawyers may be members of the same political party. Commission members serve staggered, four-year terms.

When a judicial vacancy occurs, the appropriate commission holds a public hearing to interview applicants for the position and may also conduct private interviews. The commission submits the names of at least two qualified candidates to the governor, and the governor must appoint one of the candidates. If the governor fails to make an appointment within sixty days, the chief justice makes the appointment from the list of nominees. Click here to view commission rules and here to view the applicable statute adressing the commission (full list available here).  Further understanding of the operation of the Nebraska judicial nominating commissions can be found in the manual

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $6000 (2006)
  • $6000 (2005)
  • $6000 (2004)

Nevada

When a midterm vacancy occurs on the supreme court or the district court, the governor appoints a judge from a list of three nominees submitted by the commission on judicial selection, which was established by the Nevada State Constitution, Article 6, Section 20.  There is a permanent commission to identify candidates to fill supreme court vacancies. The permanent commission is composed of the chief justice or a designated associate justice, three lawyers appointed by the board of governors of the State Bar of Nevada, and three nonlawyers appointed by the governor. Of the members appointed by the state bar and by the governor, none may reside in the same county and no more than two may be members of the same political party. Member serve four-year terms. Click here to view the rules of the commission on judicial selection.  The documents and forms pertaining to the commission can be found here.

A temporary commission is assembled to recommend candidates for district court vacancies. The temporary commission consists of the members of the permanent commission; a lawyer resident of the judicial district in which the vacancy occurs, appointed by the board of governors of the state bar; and a nonlawyer resident of that judicial district, appointed by the governor.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $14,247 (2006)
  • $12,601 (2005)
  • $15,074 (2004)

New Hampshire

In 2005, Governor Lynch created a judicial selection commission by executive order. In 2013, Governor Hassan followed suit, using an executive order to create a new commission. The current commission consists of between 9 and 11 members, chosen by the Governor, representing all of the state's Executive Council Districts. When a vacancy arises on any state court, the commission evaluates applicants and recommends qualified persons to the governor. While the governor may request that the commission engage in a further search for qualified applicants, she must make her nomination from the persons identified by the commission. For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

New Jersey

Judicial nominating commissions are not used to screen judicial candidates in New Jersey.

New Mexico

There are fifteen judicial nominating commissions that screen applicants for vacancies on New Mexico courts and recommend qualified candidates to the governor: the appellate judges nominating commission for the supreme court and court of appeals; a district court judges nominating committee for each of the state's thirteen judicial districts; and a metropolitan court judges nominating committee for the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court. For each judicial vacancy, the appropriate commission submits a list of at least two nominees. The governor may make one request for the submission of additional names. If a majority of the commission finds that there are other qualified candidates, the commission recommends those candidates. The governor must appoint one of the commission's nominees.

The appellate judges nominating commission consists of fourteen members: the chief justice or the chief justice's designee; two court of appeals judges appointed by the chief judge of the court of appeals; one lawyer and one nonlawyer appointed by the governor, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the president pro tempore of the senate; the dean of the University of New Mexico law school, who serves as chair; and four lawyers appointed jointly by the president of the state bar and the judge members of the commission.

The composition of each district court judges nominating committee is identical to that of the appellate judges nominating commission, except that the chief judge (or a designee) of the district in which the vacancy exists serves in place of one of the court of appeals judges. On the metropolitan court judges nominating committee, the three judge members are the chief justice (or a designee), the chief judge (or a designee) of the district in which the vacancy exists, and the chief judge (or a designee) of the metropolitan court. Lawyer and nonlawyer members of these committees must reside in the judicial district.

Appointments to the judicial nominating commissions are to be made so that the state's two largest political parties are equally represented. The state bar president and the judge members may make additional appointments as necessary to fulfill this requirement. There are no established term lengths for commission members; the appointing authorities are asked each time a judicial vacancy occurs whether the members of the relevant commission should be retained or replaced. 

Click here to view the rules governing judicial nominating commissions.  The statutes governing the nominating commissions can be found in the Constitution of the State of New Mexico, Article VI, Sections 35-37, available here.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $6000 per commission (2007)

New York

In 1977, New York voters approved a constitutional amendment calling for merit selection of judges of the state’s highest court, the court of appeals. (For more information about the adoption of merit selection for the court of appeals, see Judicial Selection Reform: Examples from Six States.) When a vacancy occurs on the court of appeals, the commission on judicial nomination submits the names of three to seven candidates to governor, who appoints one of the candidates to fill the vacancy. The governor’s appointee must then be confirmed by the senate. Unlike most merit selection systems, judges do not run in retention elections to keep their seats. Instead, upon the expiration of their terms, they must reapply to the commission on judicial nomination and be considered along with other applicants. The commission on judicial nomination consists of twelve members: four chosen by the governor, four chosen by the chief judge of the court of appeals, and one each chosen by the president pro tem of the senate, the speaker of the assembly, the minority leader of the senate, and the minority leader of the assembly. The governor and the chief judge are each required to appoint two lawyers and two nonlawyers, and no more than two of each official’s appointees may be members of the same political party. Commission members serve four-year terms. Click here for the statute addressing the commission and here to view the commission's rules.

Since 1975, New York governors have created judicial screening committees by executive order to nominate candidates for appointment to other judicial offices. The state judicial screening committee recommends candidates for the court of claims; departmental judicial screening committees nominate elected supreme court justices for designation as justices of the appellate division of the supreme court, and consider candidates to fill interim vacancies on the supreme court. County judicial screening committees evaluate applicants for interim vacancies on the county court, surrogate’s court, and family court.

Since 1978, merit selection has been used to select judges of New York City’s criminal and family courts and to fill mid-term vacancies on the city’s civil court. Established by executive order, the mayor’s advisory committee on the judiciary evaluates applicants and nominates highly qualified candidates. The mayor may not appoint a judge who has not been nominated by the committee.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

North Carolina

On April 4, 2011, Governor Beverly Perdue signed an executive order creating a judicial nominating commission to recommend candidates to fill interim vacancies on the North Carolina Supreme Court, the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and the North Carolina Superior Court.  The nominating commission will composed of eight attorneys, eight non-attorneys, and two members that can be either attorneys or nonattorneys. 

North Dakota

When a midterm vacancy occurs on the supreme court or the district court, the judicial nominating commission submits a list of between two and seven nominees to the governor. Within thirty days of receiving the list, the governor may fill the vacancy from the list of nominees, return the list and direct the commission to reconvene, or call a special election to fill the vacancy.

The judicial nominating commission consists of six members. The governor, the chief justice, and the president of the State Bar Association of North Dakota each appoint two members, including one lawyer and one nonlawyer. Commission members serve three-year terms, and no member may serve more than two full terms. Click here for statutes regarding the composition and operation of the commission.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • (2007)
    Costs for the nominating commission are minimal. Money comes from the judicial budget but only covers expenses for the commissioners. Otherwise, commissioners are not compensated.

Ohio

Judicial nominating commissions are not used to screen judicial candidates in Ohio.

Oklahoma

Whenever there is a vacancy on the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals, or the court of civil appeals, or an interim vacancy on the district court, the judicial nominating commission submits a list of three nominees to the governor. The governor must appoint one of the nominees to fill the vacancy.

The judicial nominating commission is composed of fifteen members.  The commission was established by Article 7B of the Oklahoma Constituiton. The governor appoints one non-lawyer member from each of Oklahoma's six congressional districts. No more than three may be of the same political party. The Oklahoma Bar Association elects one of its members from each congressional district. These commission members serve staggered six year terms. The three remaining members are non-lawyer members-at-large. The speaker of the Oklahoma house of representatives and the Oklahoma senate president pro tempore each appoint one lawyer member-at-large, and the remaining member-at-large is selected by at least eight commission members. Members-at-large serve two year terms. Commission members select a chair who serves for one year.

According to a consitutional amendment approved by voters in 2010, non-laywer members may not have a lawyer in their immediate family.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Oregon

Judicial nominating commissions are not used to screen judicial candidates in Oregon.

Pennsylvania

Judicial nominating commissions are not used to screen judicial candidates in Pennsylvania.

Rhode Island

Established in 1994, the judicial nominating commission is composed of nine members. The governor appoints three lawyers and one nonlawyer of his or her choice. The governor also appoints five additional commission members, one from each of the following lists: at least three lawyers submitted by the speaker of the house; at least three lawyers and/or nonlawyers submitted by the senate majority leader; four nonlawyers submitted jointly by the speaker and the senate majority leader; at least three nonlawyers submitted by the minority leader of the house; and at least three nonlawyers submitted by the minority leader of the senate. Commission members serve four-year terms.

The commission publishes notices of judicial vacancies in a number of state newspapers. Interested candidates complete an extensive application. The commission selects candidates to be interviewed, solicits public comment, and conducts background checks. The commission then votes and submits the names of three to five candidates for each vacancy to the governor. The commission is charged with exercising "reasonable efforts to encourage racial, ethnic, and gender diversity within the judiciary." Click here for statutes regarding the composition and operation of the commission, and here for the uniform rules of procedure for the judicial nominating commission. 

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

For law review articles on Rhode Island's switch to merit selection, see "Rhode Island's New Judicial Merit Selection Law," 1 R.W.U.L. Rev. 63 (1996); and "Rhode Island's Judicial Nominating Commission: Can 'Reform' Become Reality?", 1 R.W.U.L. Rev. 87 (1996).

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $10,000 (2007)

South Carolina

Created in 1997, the judicial merit selection commission considers the qualifications and fitness of candidates for South Carolina courts. The commission is composed of ten members. Five members are appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives; of these five, three must be serving members of the general assembly and two must be selected from the general public. Three members are appointed by the chairman of the senate judiciary committee and two members are appointed by the president pro tempore of the senate; of these appointments, three must be serving members of the general assembly and two must be selected from the general public.

The judicial merit selection commission publishes upcoming judicial vacancies, including judgeships where incumbent judges are being screened for reelection. Individuals who wish to be considered for a judicial vacancy file with the commission. The commission investigates each candidate's background, conducts a personal interview with each candidate, and administers an exam on court procedure to each candidate (except retired judges). The commission receives assistance in screening judicial candidates from two sources: the South Carolina Bar's judicial qualifications committee and a citizens committee on judicial qualifications:

  • The judicial qualifications committee of the South Carolina Bar is responsible for interviewing bar members who have knowledge of the candidates' professional experience, ability, character, and other qualifications. The candidates provide personal information and complete a confidential interview process with the judicial qualifications committee. A report is then prepared, discussed, voted on, and issued, indicating whether the candidate meets or does not meet established criteria for judicial selection. In addition, the judicial merit selection commission invites all members of the South Carolina Bar to return questionnaires on the performance and qualifications of sitting judges and attorneys running for judicial vacancies.

  • There are five geographically-based citizens committee on judicial qualifications in South Carolina that screen candidates for judgeships in their respective regions. Citizens committees were created out of a desire for "broad-based grassroots participation" in judicial selection. The chairman of the judicial merit selection commission selects no more than eight members for each committee, and is expected to ensure that a wide range of interests is represented on each committee. The committee investigates and conducts personal interviews with each candidate, and interviews individuals who are familiar personally and/or professionally with each candidate.

Once the screening process is complete, the judicial merit selection commission prepares a formal report summarizing the qualifications of each candidate, classifying each candidate as qualified or not qualified, and nominating up to three individuals for each judicial vacancy. At this point, nominees are free to seek the support of general assembly members, and legislators are free to give pledges of support. A joint assembly is then scheduled to elect a nominee to fill each vacancy.

South Dakota

In addition to investigating complaints against judges, the judicial qualifications commission recommends to the governor nominees to fill all vacancies on the supreme court and mid-term vacancies on the circuit court. The commission submits at least two names to the governor for each vacancy, and the governor must appoint one of the commission's nominees.

The judicial qualifications commission has seven members. Two circuit court judges are elected by the judicial conference; three lawyers, no more than two of whom may be members of the same political party, are appointed by the president of the State Bar of South Dakota; and two nonlawyers, not of the same political party, are appointed by the governor. Commission members serve four-year terms and may not serve more than two terms.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status

Tennessee

For all vacancies on the state's appellate courts and for interim vacancies on the trial courts, the judicial nomination commission holds a public meeting where lawyers and laypersons offer suggestions for (or objections to) possible nominees. Following the public meeting, possible nominees are investigated by the commission and interviewed individually. Following the interviews, the commission selects three nominees for recommendation to the governor. All of the commission's interviews, meetings, and deliberations are open to the public. For appellate vacancies, the governor may reject the first panel of nominees and request a second panel, and s/he may select a nominee from either the first or second panel. For trial court vacancies, the governor must select from the first panel of nominees. If the commission does not provide a list of three nominees within 60 days of the notice of vacancy, the governor may appoint a qualified individual to fill the vacancy.

The commission is composed of seventeen members, including at least ten lawyers and at least one non-lawyer. Eight members are appointed by the speaker of the senate, and eight members are appointed by the speaker of the house. Of the members appointed by each legislative leader, at least five must be lawyers and two must reside in each of the state's three grand divisions. The seventeenth member, who must be a non-lawyer, is appointed jointly by the speakers of the senate and house. The speakers are required to make the appointments "with a conscious intention of selecting a body that reflects diversity with respect to" race, gender, and representation of both rural and urban areas. Citizens may apply to be considered for appointment to the nominating commission. Commission members must be at least 30 years old and citizens of the state for at least five years, and they serve staggered six-year terms.

Click here for the statute addressing the selection, composition, and procedures of the judicial nominating commission. For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $23,659 (2006)
  • $26,018 (2005)
  • $21,333 (2004)

Texas

Judicial nominating commissions are not used to screen judicial candidates in Texas.

Utah

There are nine judicial nominating commissions in Utah: one for the appellate courts and one for the district and juvenile courts in each of the state's eight judicial districts. Each judicial nominating commission is composed of seven members. The governor appoints six members, no less than two and no more than four of whom may be lawyers. Two of the lawyer members must be appointed from a list of nominees submitted by the Utah State Bar. The chief justice appoints another member of the Utah Judicial Council to serve as a nonvoting member of each commission. No more than four members of each commission may be members of the same political party, and commission members must reside in the judicial district they serve. Commission members are limited to a single, four-year term.

When a vacancy occurs on the supreme court or court of appeals, the appellate court nominating commission screens applicants for the vacancy and submits the names of seven nominees to the governor. For vacancies on the trial courts, the appropriate commission submits the names of five nominees. The governor must appoint a nominee to fill the vacancy within thirty days, and the senate must confirm or reject the appointment within sixty days. Click here for the statutes describing the composition of the nominating commissions, and click here for the commissions' manual of procedures.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $1000 per commission (2007)

Vermont

The judicial nominating board was created in 1966 to nominate judges of the supreme, superior, and district courts. The board consists of eleven members: the governor appoints two nonlawyers; the house and the senate each elect two nonlawyers and one lawyer (not all of whom may be members of the same party) from their members; and attorneys admitted to practice before the Vermont Supreme Court elect three lawyers. Board members serve two-year terms; the governor's appointees may serve no more than three terms; all other members may serve no more than three consecutive terms. Board members elect a chair to a two-year term. When a judicial vacancy occurs, the judicial nominating board submits to the governor the names of as many persons as it deems qualified for appointment. For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

The joint committee on judicial retention reviews a judge's performance during the previous term and recommends to the general assembly whether the judge should be retained. The committee consists of four house members appointed by the speaker of the house and four senate members appointed by the committee on committees. During the review process, the committee conducts an initial interview with the judge, followed by a public comment hearing and a final committee hearing. The committee arrives at a recommendation by majority vote and prepares a report for the joint assembly of the general assembly. There is an opportunity for open debate and discussion, after which the assembly votes by secret ballot.

In conjunction with the judicial retention committee's review, the legislative council sends a survey to attorneys, assistant judges, and nonlawyers who appeared before the judge during the previous term. The survey results are made available to both the judge and the public.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $2500 (2007)

Virginia

Judicial nominating commissions are not used to screen judicial candidates in Virginia.

Washington

Judicial nominating commissions are not used to screen judicial candidates in Washington.

West Virginia

In 2010, the legislature created a judicial vacancy advisory commission to assist the governor in filling midterm vacancies on the supreme court of appeals, circuit court, and family court. The commission is composed of eleven members. The governor (or the governor's designee), the president of the West Virginia State Bar, and the dean of the West Virginia University College of Law serve as ex officio commission members. In addition, the governor appoints four nonlawyer members, and four lawyer members from a list of ten to twenty nominees submitted by the board of governors of the state bar. No more than four appointed commission members may belong to the same political party, and no more than three appointed members may be residents of the same congressional district. Appointed members serve staggered, six-year terms. Commission members select one of the appointed members to serve as chair for a three-year term.  Click here for the statute governing the judicial vacancy advisory commission. 

Within ninety days of the occurrence of a vacancy, the commission submits to the governor the names of no more five and no fewer than two best qualified applicants.

Wisconsin

Governor Walker's Advisory Council on Judicial Selection makes recommendations to the governor in the event of interim judicial vacancies.  The council is composed of a number of permanent members and up to two temporary members who sit on the commission for a specific vacancy.  If the vacancy occurs at the court of appeals or trial court level, the temporary members must live in the geographic area served by that court.  The council provides the governor with a list of three to five nominees for the position within six weeks.  The governor is not bound by the commission's recommendations.

Wyoming

The judicial nominating commission considers applicants for vacancies on the supreme court, district court, and circuit court, and submits the names of three nominees to the governor. The governor must appoint a judge from the commission's list.

The commission consists of seven members and is chaired by the chief justice. Three additional members are elected by the Wyoming State Bar and must be active attorneys in the state. The remaining three members are nonlawyers appointed by the governor. No more than two members of the commission may be residents of the same judicial district. When a vacancy occurs on a district or circuit court and that district or county is not represented on the commission, one lawyer and one nonlawyer from the district or county are appointed as temporary, nonvoting advisors. Commission members serve staggered four-year terms and are not eligible for a second term. Click here to view commission rules and here for more information about the commission.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.

Nominating Commission Costs

  • $15,000 biennially (2007)