How states fill current and upcoming supreme court vacancies

There are two current vacancies on state supreme courts, with another three planned based on scheduled retirements.
 
The current vacancies are in Kentucky and South Dakota, and the pending vacancies are in Arizona, North Carolina, and Virginia.
 
States fill their supreme court vacancies in a number of ways. Here’s how the states with current or upcoming vacancies fill unexpected openings:
 
  • Kentucky, South Dakota, and Arizona: a successor is chosen by the governor from a list of names compiled by a nominating commission. They are among the 24 states that use this form of assisted appointment for their court of last resort.
  • North Carolina: vacancies are filled by the governor, without him or her having to choose from a list supplied by a commission. It is one of four states that fills vacancies by gubernatorial appointment.
    • This year, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) chose sitting justice Cheri Beasley to fill the vacant chief justice position. She will take the seat on March 1.
  • Virginia: vacancies are filled by a majority vote of the House of Delegates and state Senate. It is one of two states that fills vacancies this way.
    • On February 14, 2019, the General Assembly appointed Virginia Court of Appeals Judge Teresa M. Chafin to fill a vacancy on the court. She will join the court on September 1.



About the author

Cory Eucalitto

Cory Eucalitto is a managing editor at Ballotpedia and can be reached at cory.eucalitto@ballotpedia.org

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