Michigan/Ohio Judicial Selection Method yields most visible partisanship

The Michigan-Ohio method of judicial selection manifests the most signs of partisanship out of any of the eight methods used across state supreme courts, according to Ballotpedia’s recently-published study on state supreme courts.

There are three broad categories of state supreme court selection: Assisted Appointment, Direct Appointment, and Election. Within these three broad categories, there are eight ways of administering selection among the states. We classify them with the following subcategories:

• Assisted Appointment

◦ Assisted Appointment through Bar-Controlled Commission

◦ Assisted Appointment through Governor-Controlled Commission

◦ Assisted Appointment through Hybrid Commission

• Direct Appointment

◦ Direct Gubernatorial Appointment

◦ Direct Legislative Appointment

• Election

◦ Michigan-Ohio Method

◦ Partisan Election

◦ Nonpartisan Election

The Michigan-Ohio method selects justices through nonpartisan elections preceded by a partisan primary or convention. In these states, partisan primaries are held to determine judicial nominees, and the winners of each primary compete in a nonpartisan election for ultimate selection to the court. Only Michigan and Ohio use this method of judicial selection.

The Pure Partisanship Score attempts to show our total confidence in partisan affiliations on a court. Selection methods with a lower Pure Partisan Score have, on average, justices with lower Confidence Scores, without consideration of the specific party for which there is evidence of their party affiliation.

Of all selection methods, the Michigan-Ohio method produced justices with the highest Pure Partisanship Score, on average. Whereas the average Pure Partisanship Score for justices nationally is 7, justices in Michigan and Ohio record an average Pure Partisanship Score of 11. Of the 14 justices across both states’ supreme courts, four (all in Michigan) were selected by the governor to fill vacancies. Not including the scores for the four justices appointed to fill vacancies, the Michigan-Ohio method records an average Pure Partisanship Score of 10.3.

The method of selection which accounts for the second-highest average Pure Partisanship Score is Partisan Election, which records a score of 9.8. Seven states use this method: Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

The method of selection that accounts for the third-highest average Pure Partisan Score is Nonpartisan Election, which records a score of 6.4. This method is used by 13 states: Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

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