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State of Tennessee

Methods of Judicial Selection: Tennessee

Selection of Judges

Number of Judgeships
Supreme Court: 5
Court of Appeals: 12
Court of Criminal Appeals: 12
Chancery Court: 35
Criminal Court: 33
Circuit Court: 85
Probate Court: 2
Number of Districts/Circuits
Supreme Court: 1
Court of Appeals: 1
Court of Criminal Appeals: 1
Chancery Court: 27
Criminal Court: 13
Circuit Court: 31
Probate Court: 1
Geographic Basis for Selection
Supreme Court: statewide
Court of Appeals: statewide
Court of Criminal Appeals: statewide
Chancery Court: district
Criminal Court: district
Circuit Court: district
Probate Court: district
Method of Selection (full term)
Supreme Court: gubernatorial appointment with joint House/Senate confirmation
Court of Appeals: gubernatorial appointment with joint House/Senate confirmation
Court of Criminal Appeals: gubernatorial appointment with joint House/Senate confirmation
Chancery Court: partisan election*
Criminal Court: partisan election*
Circuit Court: partisan election*
Probate Court: partisan election*
Length of Term
Supreme Court: until next general election at least 30 days after vacancy occurred
Court of Appeals: until next general election at least 30 days after vacancy occurred
Court of Criminal Appeals: until next general election at least 30 days after vacancy occurred
Chancery Court: 8 yrs
Criminal Court: 8 yrs
Circuit Court: 8 yrs
Probate Court: 8 yrs
Method of Retention
Supreme Court: retention election
Court of Appeals: retention election
Court of Criminal Appeals: retention election
Chancery Court: reelection
Criminal Court: reelection
Circuit Court: reelection
Probate Court: reelection
Length of Subsequent Terms
Supreme Court: 8 yrs
Court of Appeals: 8 yrs
Court of Criminal Appeals: 8 yrs
Chancery Court: 8 yrs
Criminal Court: 8 yrs
Circuit Court: 8 yrs
Probate Court: 8 yrs
Method of Filling Interim Vacancies
Supreme Court: gubernatorial appointment with joint House/Senate confirmation
Court of Appeals: gubernatorial appointment with joint House/Senate confirmation
Court of Criminal Appeals: gubernatorial appointment with joint House/Senate confirmation
Chancery Court: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Criminal Court: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Circuit Court: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
Probate Court: gubernatorial appointment from nominating commission
When Interim Judges Stand for Election/Appointment
Supreme Court: next general election at least 30 days after vacancy occurred; hold office for remainder of unexpired term
Court of Appeals: next general election at least 30 days after vacancy occurred; hold office for remainder of unexpired term
Court of Criminal Appeals: next general election at least 30 days after vacancy occurred; hold office for remainder of unexpired term
Chancery Court: next general election at least 30 days after vacancy occurred; hold office for remainder of unexpired term
Criminal Court: next general election at least 30 days after vacancy occurred; hold office for remainder of unexpired term
Circuit Court: next general election at least 30 days after vacancy occurred; hold office for remainder of unexpired term
Probate Court: next general election at least 30 days after vacancy occurred; hold office for remainder of unexpired term
Selection of Chief Judge/Justice
Supreme Court: peer vote
Court of Appeals: peer vote
Court of Criminal Appeals: peer vote
Chancery Court: a presiding judge is selected in each judicial district
Criminal Court: a presiding judge is selected in each judicial district
Circuit Court: a presiding judge is selected in each judicial district
Probate Court: --
Term of Office for Chief Judge/Justice
Supreme Court: 4 yrs
Court of Appeals: 1 yr
Court of Criminal Appeals: 1 yr
Chancery Court: 1 yr
Criminal Court: 1 yr
Circuit Court: 1 yr
Probate Court: --
Qualifications
Supreme Court: authorized to practice law in state; minimum age of 35; state resident 5 yrs
Court of Appeals: authorized to practice law in state; minimum age of 30; state resident 5 yrs and district resident 1 yr
Court of Criminal Appeals: authorized to practice law in state; minimum age of 30; state resident 5 yrs and district resident 1 yr
Chancery Court: authorized to practice law in state; minimum age of 30; state resident 5 yrs and district resident 1 yr
Criminal Court: authorized to practice law in state; minimum age of 30; state resident 5 yrs and district resident 1 yr
Circuit Court: authorized to practice law in state; minimum age of 30; state resident 5 yrs and district resident 1 yr
Probate Court: authorized to practice law in state; minimum age of 30; state resident 5 yrs and district resident 1 yr

Selection and retention methods and term lengths are prescribed by Article VI of the Tennessee Constitution and Title 17, Chapter 4 of the Tennessee Code.

*Per statute, each county legislative body has the discretion to require elections to be conducted in a nonpartisan manner.