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State of Washington

Methods of Judicial Selection: Washington

Selection of Judges

Number of Judgeships
Supreme Court: 9
Court of Appeals: 22
Superior Court: 186
Number of Districts/Circuits
Supreme Court: -
Court of Appeals: 9
Superior Court: 30
Geographic Basis for Selection
Supreme Court: statewide*
Court of Appeals: district
Superior Court: county
Method of Selection (full term)
Supreme Court: nonpartisan election**
Court of Appeals: nonpartisan election**
Superior Court: nonpartisan election**
Length of Term
Supreme Court: 6 yrs
Court of Appeals: 6 yrs
Superior Court: 4 yrs
Method of Retention
Supreme Court: reelection
Court of Appeals: reelection
Superior Court: reelection
Length of Subsequent Terms
Supreme Court: 6 yrs
Court of Appeals: 6 yrs
Superior Court: 4 yrs
Method of Filling Interim Vacancies
Supreme Court: gubernatorial appointment
Court of Appeals: gubernatorial appointment
Superior Court: gubernatorial appointment
When Interim Judges Stand for Election/Appointment
Supreme Court: next general election; successor holds office for remainder of unexpired term
Court of Appeals: next general election; successor holds office for remainder of unexpired term
Superior Court: next general election; successor holds office for remainder of unexpired term
Selection of Chief Judge/Justice
Supreme Court: peer vote
Court of Appeals: peer vote
Superior Court: peer vote***
Term of Office for Chief Judge/Justice
Supreme Court: 4 yrs
Court of Appeals: 1 yr
Superior Court: at least 1 yr***
Qualifications
Supreme Court: licensed to practice in state; retirement age is 75
Court of Appeals: 5 yrs practice in state; resident of district at least 1 yr
Superior Court: licensed to practice in state; retirement age is 75

Selection and retention methods and term lengths are prescribed by Article IV of the Washington Constitution and Chapter 2.06 of the Revised Code of Washington.

*Currently, the supreme court has one justice from eastern Washington (Debra Stephens), while six of the justices are from the Seattle-Tacoma area. Various proposals have been made in the legislature for geographically based election schemes.

**Judicial candidates run in a primary election. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the names of the top two vote getters are placed on the general election ballot.

***Each superior court district may establish local rules for the appointment and term of the chief judge. However, the chief judge must be selected by a vote of his/her peers and the term must be at least one year.