Comparing and contrasting methods for judicial selection in the states

Each state has its own specific method for selecting judges but there are four primary selection types: partisan election, nonpartisan election, legislative election, and gubernatorial appointment.
 
A majority (26) of state supreme courts use gubernatorial appointment, while 22 use either partisan or nonpartisan elections. Two states, South Carolina and Virginia, select state supreme court justices by a vote of the state legislature.
 
What do supporters and opponents say about each method?
  • Proponents of elections say elections allow people to hold judges accountable. Opponents say that such elections allow for the influence of special interests on judicial selection.
  • Proponents of gubernatorial appointments say that it protects the independence of the judiciary by eliminating political campaigns. Opponents say that voters should be given a voice in selecting judges to keep them accountable.
  • Proponents of legislative elections say that they prevent any one authority figure from having too much power, but opponents say that it promotes political inbreeding and create a judiciary primarily made up of past legislators.



About the author

Joel Williams

Joel Williams is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at joel.williams@ballotpedia.org

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