State supreme court vacancy 2023 recap

From January 1 through December 21, 2023, Ballotpedia tracked 20 state supreme court vacancies. This was the second-lowest number of vacancies since Ballotpedia started tracking state supreme court vacancies in 2019.

Of the 20 vacancies, 13 (65%) were caused by a justice resigning from their seat. Of the 13 retirements, seven (54%) were voluntary, with the justices leaving for various reasons. The remaining six (46%) were triggered by mandatory retirement ages across four states.

In 2023, state supreme court justices were tapped for federal judgeships for the first time since 2019. Two justices, Maria Araujo Kahn of Connecticut and Tamika Montgomery-Reeves of Delaware, were elevated to a federal appellate court. One justice, Adrienne Nelson of Oregon, was elevated to a federal district court. This was the first time during Joe Biden’s (D) presidency that a state supreme court justice was successfully elevated to a federal judgeship.

For the first time since 2019, three justices were selected to ascend to the chief justice positions on their respective courts. In January 2023, Associate Justice Patricia Guerrero was sworn in as the California Supreme Court chief justice. In April, after the New York State Senate failed to confirm her first nominee, Governor Kathy Hochul (D) nominated Associate Judge Rowan Wilson to the chief judge position on the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s court of last resort. In October 2023, Governor Tim Walz (D) appointed Associate Justice Natalie Hudson to serve as Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. In each instance, the governor of the state nominated a successor for each former associate justice.