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State of Kentucky

Methods of Judicial Selection: Kentucky

Selection of Judges

Number of Judgeships
Supreme Court: 7
Court of Appeals: 14
Circuit Court: 146
Number of Districts/Circuits
Supreme Court: 7
Court of Appeals: 7
Circuit Court: 57
Geographic Basis for Selection
Supreme Court: district
Court of Appeals: district
Circuit Court: circuit
Method of Selection (full term)
Supreme Court: nonpartisan election*
Court of Appeals: nonpartisan election*
Circuit Court: nonpartisan election*
Length of Term
Supreme Court: 8 yrs
Court of Appeals: 8 yrs
Circuit Court: 8 yrs
Method of Retention
Supreme Court: reelection
Court of Appeals: reelection
Circuit Court: reelection
Length of Subsequent Terms
Supreme Court: 8 yrs
Court of Appeals: 8 yrs
Circuit Court: 8 yrs
Method of Filling Interim Vacancies
Supreme Court: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Court of Appeals: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Circuit Court: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
When Interim Judges Stand for Election/Appointment
Supreme Court: **
Court of Appeals: **
Circuit Court: **
Selection of Chief Judge/Justice
Supreme Court: peer vote
Court of Appeals: peer vote
Circuit Court: peer vote
Term of Office for Chief Judge/Justice
Supreme Court: 4 yrs
Court of Appeals: 4 yrs
Circuit Court: 2 yrs
Qualifications
Supreme Court: U.S. citizen; district resident 2 yrs; licensed to practice law 8 yrs
Court of Appeals: U.S. citizen; district resident 2 yrs; licensed to practice law 8 yrs
Circuit Court: U.S. citizen; circuit resident 2 yrs; licensed to practice law 8 yrs

Selection and retention methods and term lengths are prescribed by Sections 117, 118, and 119 of the Kentucky Constitution. 

*The two candidates receiving the highest number of votes in the primary election compete in the general election.

**If the unexpired term ends at the next annual election, the appointment is for the remainder of the unexpired term. If the unexpired term does not end at the next annual election and that election is more than 3 months away, judges are appointed until the next election. If there are less than 3 months until the next annual election, the appointment is until the second succeeding annual election. Elections are for the remainder of the unexpired term.