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Luke Seeley

Luke Seeley is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Two Nevada Supreme Court seats are up for nonpartisan election in November

The seats of Nevada Supreme Court Justices Mark Gibbons and Kris Pickering will be up for nonpartisan election on November 3, 2020. Pickering is seeking re-election while Gibbons is not. Pickering is unopposed for the November election to reclaim her seat. Ozzie Fumo and Douglas Herndon will face each other in an effort to fill Gibbons’ seat on the court.

Almost every justice on the court won their seat in a nonpartisan election. The lone exception is Justice Stiglich, who was appointed by Republican Governor Brian Sandoval in 2016.

Justices on the Nevada Supreme Court are elected in nonpartisan elections for six-year terms. Whenever a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a replacement.

Across all types of state supreme court elections, incumbent justices running for re-election won 93% of the time from 2008-2019. Nevada has not seen an incumbent supreme court justice lose an election during this same time frame.

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Nevada Supreme Court
Kris Pickering
Mark Gibbons
Ozzie Fumo
Douglas Herndon
Incumbent win rates



Three Maryland Court of Appeals justices seek retention in November

Maryland Court of Appeals Justices Brynja McDivitt Booth, Jonathan Biran, and Mary Ellen Barbera are all seeking retention on November 3, 2020. Booth and Biran were appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) while Barbera was appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).

Currently, three of the seven justices on the court were appointed by a Democratic governor while four were appointed by a Republican governor.

The governor appoints the seven justices of the appellate court with the assistance of a judicial nominating commission. The Maryland Appellate Courts Judicial Nominating Commission is made up of 17 members, all appointed by the governor. Five of these members are first nominated by the Maryland State Bar Association. After the governor appoints a justice, the Maryland Senate must then confirm the appointment.

New justices must face a retention election during the next general election after they serve at least one year on the bench. Justices then stand for retention every ten years with a mandatory retirement age of 70. Since 2008, justices facing retention elections have won 98% of the time. In Maryland, there has not been a single justice that lost retention during this same time frame.

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Two Colorado Supreme Court justices seek retention in November

Colorado Supreme Court Justices Melissa Hart and Carlos Armando Samour Jr. are standing for retention election on November 3, 2020. Both justices were appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

Currently, six of the seven justices on the court were appointed by a Democratic governor. Of those, five were appointed by Hickenlooper.

• Brian Boatright Appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in 2011
• Nathan Coats Appointed by Gov. Bill Owens (R) in 2000
• Richard Gabriel Appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in 2015
• Melissa Hart Appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in 2017
• William W. Hood Appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in 2014
• Monica Márquez Appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter (D) in 2010

• Carlos Armando Samour Jr. Appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in 2018

The governor appoints justices to the court from a shortlist of two or three names assembled by the Colorado Judicial Nominating Convention. The convention is composed of 15 voting members. Eight are non-lawyers appointed by the governor and seven are lawyers jointly appointed by the governor, attorney general, and chief justice. No more than half the members of the committee plus one may belong to the same political party.

New justices must face a retention election during the next general election after they serve at least two years on the bench. Justices then stand for retention every ten years. Since 2008, justices facing retention elections have won 98% of the time. In Colorado, there has not been a single justice that lost retention during this same time frame.

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One Utah Supreme Court justice seeks retention in November

Utah Supreme Court Justice John A. Pearce is standing for retention election on November 3, 2020. Pearce was appointed by former Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R).

Herbert appointed four of the five justices currently sitting on the court. Gov. Michael Leavitt (R) appointed the other.

The governor of Utah appoints the five justices of the supreme court with the assistance of the Utah Judicial Nominating Commission. The governor has majority control over membership on the seven-member judicial nominating commission. The governor appoints six of these members, no less than two and no more than four of whom may be lawyers. Two of the lawyer members must be appointed from a list of nominees submitted by the Utah State Bar. The Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice appoints the final member of the commission, who does not vote.

New justices must face a retention election during the next general election after they serve at least three years on the bench. Justices then stand for retention every ten years. Since 2008, justices facing retention elections have won 98% of the time. In Utah, there has not been a single justice that lost retention during this same time frame.

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Two Wyoming Supreme Court justices seek retention in November

Wyoming Supreme Court Justices Lynne Boomgaarden and Kari Gray are standing for retention election on November 3, 2020. Both Boomgaarden and Gray were appointed by former Wyoming Governor Matt Mead (R).

Mead appointed all five of the justices currently on the court.

The governor appoints the five justices of the Wyoming Supreme Court with the assistance of a judicial nominating commission where neither the governor nor the Wyoming State Bar Association has majority control. The Wyoming Judicial Nominating Commission is made up of seven members: three lawyers (elected from the active membership of the Wyoming State Bar), three non-lawyer members (appointed by the governor), and is chaired by the chief justice of the supreme court.

New justices must face a retention election during the next general election after they serve at least one year on the bench. Justices then stand for retention every eight years. Since 2008, justices facing retention elections have won 98% of the time. In Wyoming, there has not been a single justice that lost retention during this same time frame.

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Three Arizona Supreme Court justices seek retention in November

Arizona Supreme Court Justices Robert Brutinel, Andrew W. Gould, and John Lopez IV are all standing for retention election on November 3, 2020. Lopez and Gould were both appointed by current Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R), while Brutinel was appointed by former Governor Jan Brewer (R).
Currently, all seven judges on the court were appointed by a Republican governor: five appointed by Ducey and two by Brewer.
Each of Arizona’s seven justices is appointed by the governor from a list of names compiled by the Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. The commission is chaired by the Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice and has four vacancies as of April.
A newly appointed justice’s term is at least two years, after which the justice must stand in a retention election. Subsequent terms last six years. Since 2008 across the country, state supreme court justices facing retention elections have won 98% of the time. In Arizona, no justices have lost a retention election in this time frame.


State supreme court justices in retention elections have a 98% win rate since 2008

In retention elections, voters are asked whether an incumbent should remain in office for another term. The incumbent does not face an opponent and is removed from the position if a majority vote against retention.

State supreme court justices facing retention elections experienced better chances of being re-elected than their incumbent counterparts in other kinds of elections. Since 2008, 155 state supreme court justices have faced retention elections. Incumbent justices won 152 (98%) of these elections. In that same time period, incumbent justices in non-retention elections have faced 196 elections. The incumbent justices won 176 (90%) of these elections. Incumbent justices in all types of election experienced a 93% win rate.

In this time period, Iowa is the only state that has held retention elections in which justices were not retained. Iowa supreme court justices Marsha K. Ternus, Michael J. Streit and David Baker lost their retention elections in 2010. This followed their participation in a decision to remove the state ban on same-sex marriage. The three justices ruled in favor of removing the ban in the 2009 case Varnum v. Brien, resulting in campaigning against their retention by groups opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Ternus was appointed by Republican Governor Terry Branstad while Baker and Streit were appointed by Democratic governors. They were replaced by Bruce Zager, Thomas Waterman, and Edward Mansfield, all three of whom were appointed by Republican governor Terry Branstad in 2011. Zager’s seat was filled in 2018 by Susan Christensen, who was appointed by Republican Governor Susan Reynolds.

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Two West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals justices win reelection

Three West Virginia Supreme Court seats were up for nonpartisan election on June 9. The general election for the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, along with West Virginia’s statewide primary election, was originally scheduled for May 12. Governor Jim Justice (R) postponed the election in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Two incumbent justices were seeking re-election while one justice did not seek re-election. Receiving 41% of the vote, incumbent Justice Tim Armstead defeated Richard Neely and David W. Hummel Jr. Incumbent Justice John A. Hutchison defeated Lora Dyer and William Schwartz with 39.2% of the vote.

Incumbent Margaret Workman did not seek re-election. William Wooton, a former Democratic member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, won the seat with 31% of the vote. He defeated Joanna I. Tabit, Kris Raynes, and Jim Douglas. Wooton will take office in January 2021.

As of May 2020, three judges on the court were appointed by a Republican governor, while two were first elected in partisan elections, one as a Democrat, and one as a Republican.

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Four Mississippi Supreme Court seats up for election in November

Four Mississippi Supreme Court justices are facing non-partisan elections on November 3, 2020. Incumbent Justice T. Kenneth Griffis is opposed by Mississippi Court of Appeals Justice Latrice Westbrooks. Incumbent Justice Josiah Coleman is opposed by Third Chancery District Justice Percy L. Lynchard. Leslie King and Mike Randolph are both running unopposed.

Currently, five judges on the court were appointed by a Republican governor and four judges were initially selected in a nonpartisan election.

The nine justices on the Mississippi Supreme Court are each elected to eight-year terms in nonpartisan general elections. There are no primary elections for judicial candidates in Mississippi. Justices must face re-election if they wish to serve again.

The governor names a temporary judge whenever a midterm vacancy occurs on the court. If four or fewer years of the term remain, the appointed justice serves out the remainder of the term. If more than four years are remaining, the appointee will run in the next general election, taking place nine months or more after the vacancy occurs, and then serve the remainder of the term.

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One Indiana Supreme Court justice faces a retention election in November

One Indiana Supreme Court justice, Christopher M. Goff, will face a retention election on November 3, 2020. He was appointed in 2017 by Governor Eric Holcomb (R).

Currently, every justice on the court was appointed by a Republican governor.

The governor appoints the five justices of the supreme court through a hybrid nominating commission where neither the governor nor the Indiana State Bar Association has majority control over the judicial nominating commission. The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications is made up of seven members: three lawyers (selected by bar members from that district), three non-lawyer members (appointed by the governor), and the chief justice of the supreme court who serves as chair.

When a vacancy occurs, the commission compiles a list of three names. The governor must then make his appointment from this list. Initially, justices serve for at least two years, after which they stand for retention during a regularly scheduled general election. If they are retained, justices serve terms that last ten years.

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