State justices are selected in a variety of ways: through the appointment without a nominating commission, by merit selection through a nominating commission, by partisan election, by nonpartisan election, or by merit selection combined with other methods. Contemporary judicial selection concerns include the controversy over merit selection of judges vs. the election of judges, the need for judicial election reform, and the effect of the method of judicial selection on the number of minorities and women seated on the bench.
Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may
be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.
A Web site sponsored by the American Judicature Society, which has compiled comprehensive information on judicial selection processes in each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. Topics covered include methods of selecting, retaining, and removing of judges; successful and failed reform efforts; roles of parties, interest groups, and professional organizations in selecting judges; and the diversity of the bench.
Search the Gavel to Gavel legislation database based on state, year, legislation category, or any combination. Bill Types = "Selection" and "Qualifications and Terms".
Established by the National Center for State Courts, a non-profit organization improving justice through leadership and service to state courts.
The article provides a detailed look at the major points and statistics surrounding retention elections in state courts. The article also addresses methods some states have implemented in retention elections.
This study compares judicial seniority in state supreme courts by evaluating the conditions in which the political opportunity structures of state courts influence the length of judicial service. Characteristics of the political opportunity structure include factors that place the careers of judges at risk, reward judges for service, and determine the costs for remaining on courts. The results reveal that methods for keeping judges on courts and teh structural features of state court systems strong affect judicial tenure.
Justice System Journal (Vol. 30, No. 2).
This study is based on the 1919 change in retirement options that allows judges to retire rather than resign. With this new option, judges could retire and still "perform judicial duties, and their retirement pay could not be diminished." The conclusion of the study determined that judges did not use this option to their advantage because of personal and institutional factors rather than political ones.
On December 8, 2009, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (retired) launched the O'Connor Judicial Selection Initiative. The Initiative seeks to foster change in state judicial selection systems nationwide, and focuses on best practices for states. The Initiative advocates a judicial selection model consisting of four components that represent elements from both an appointment and an election model of judicial selection. The four components include: commission; appointment; performance evaluation; and retention election.
This article is an analysis of the book In Defense of Judicial Elections by Chris W. Bonneau and Melinda Gann Hall. It covers basic problems with the book such as who the book is targeted for, why it is a book in the first place, and potential flaws in data presented.
Trends in how judicial campaigns are conducted and are in the methods by which states choose to select their judges merit close scrutiny.
This paper argues that judicial elections have not been studied previously, and now is the time for political scientists to focus on them.
This study argues that individual-level data of judicial elections is important for understanding the dynamics of judicial elections. Common assumptions (for example, that judicial elections are noncompetitive) are no longer relevant, adn it is hard to analyze the elections at the aggregate level.
Highlights important actions states have taken since the 1980s to improve their judicial selection processes and discusses issues and innovative practice, as well as the future of judicial selection.
This article reviews the facts of the Torres case, which was before the U.S. Supreme Court, in which a judge is suing the state's board of elections for violating the First Amendment's freedom of association rights of judicial candidates.
This article shows how the election-related litigation in state courts has dramatically increased in recent y ears and how the trend wiill continue through the November 2006 election and for the forseeable future.
Top Ten article from "Future Trends in State Courts, 2006.
This article analyzes the legislative changes in Florida's merit selection process, which gave the governor more influence in selecting not only judges but members of the nominating commissions as well.
This article examines open-seat elections (elections without an incumbent) and the factors that affect their outcomes, including characteristics of the candidates, the electoral context and value of the seats, and institutional arrangements.
This staff memorandum discusses the relation of judicial selection methods, particularly judicial elections, to judicial independence. Concerns related to attacks on judicial candidates and attempts by business and political interests to influence judicial elections are examined.
An overview of the 2002 Judicial Elections.
"Call To Action" statement that came out of the Summit on Improving Judicial Selection.
More than 15 million civil cases are processed annually through the state courts. In 2000, The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) launched a major reform initiative to actively improve America's civil justice system.
The "Call To Action" was issued by the participants in the National Summit on Improving Judicial Selection, held on December 8-9, 2000 in Chicago, Illinois. This new edition of the Call To Action provides a commentary that introduces the four sections of the Call To Action and provides background on the 20 recommendations.
This is a classic "how-to" handbook prepared for the Symposium on Judicial Campaign Conduct and the First Amendment.
Conventional wisdom states that White has heightened the politicization of judicial elections by facilitating expensive, below-the-belt exchanges that aharply attenuate the incumbency advantage and threaten the legitimacy of state courts. The authors' primary assumption is that if White has had the presumed efects, then there should be measurable changes in key judicial election characteristics: an increased willingness of challenges to enter the electoral arena, decreased electoral support for incumbents, elevated costs of campaigns, and declines in voter participation. Overall, the authors find no statistically discernable changes in state supreme courts or state intermediate appellate court elections on these dimensions.
A table of the number of women on state's courts of last resort.