State-by-State Summary of Judicial Selection



ALABAMA: All judges are selected by partisan elections. The initial term of office is six years. Judges are subsequently reelected to six-year terms.

ALASKA: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission. The initial term of office is three years. All judges are subject to retention elections, though subsequent terms vary depending on the level of court.

ARIZONA: Most judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission. The initial term of office is two years. Judges are subject to retention elections, though subsequent terms vary depending on the level of court. Judges for superior courts in counties with populations of less than 250,000 are elected by way of non-partisan elections to four-year terms. These judges are reelected to four-year terms.

ARKANSAS: All judges are selected by nonpartisan elections. The initial term of office is eight years, except for circuit court judges, who are elected to six-year terms. Judges are subject to reelection.

CALIFORNIA: The governor appoints nominees to the supreme court and courts of appeals to 12-year terms. These judges are subject to retention elections for additional 12-year terms. Superior court judges are elected in nonpartisan elections for six-year terms and may be reelected to additional six-year terms.

COLORADO: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission. The initial term of office is two years. All judges are subject to retention elections, though subsequent terms vary depending on the level of court.

CONNECTICUT: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission. The initial term of office is eight years. After a commission reviews a judge’s performance, the governor nominates the judge for retention, and the state legislature confirms.

DELAWARE: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission. The initial term of office is 12 years. An incumbent subsequently reapplies to a nominating commission and competes with other applicants to be renominated by the governor. The state senate confirms the governor’s appointment.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission. The initial term of office is 15 years. A judicial tenure commission reviews each judge’s performance six months prior to the expiration of the judge’s term of office.

FLORIDA: Judges for the supreme court and district courts of appeal are chosen through a merit selection involving a nominating commission. The initial term of office is one years. Judges are subject to retention elections for six-year terms. Judges for circuit courts are elected by way of nonpartisan elections to six-year terms. These judges are reelected to additional terms.

GEORGIA: All judges are selected by nonpartisan elections. The initial term of office is six years for appellate judges and four years for superior court judges. Judges are subsequently reelected to additional terms.

HAWAII: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission. The initial term of office is 10 years. A judicial selection commission reappoints judges to additional 10-year terms.

IDAHO: All judges are selected by nonpartisan elections. The initial term of office is six years for appellate judges and four years for district court judges. Judges are subsequently reelected to additional terms.

ILLINOIS: All judges are selected by partisan elections. The initial term of office is 10 years for appellate judges and six years for superior court judges. Judges are subject to retention elections for additional terms.

INDIANA: Appellate judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission for two-year terms. Appellate judges are subject to retention elections for 10-year terms. Circuit and superior court judges are generally selected through partisan election for six-year terms. Judges in some counties, however, are elected in nonpartisan elections.

IOWA: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission. The initial term of office is one year. All judges are subject to retention elections, though subsequent terms vary depending on the level of court.

KANSAS: Most judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission. The initial term of office is one year. These judges are subject to retention elections, though subsequent terms vary depending on the level of court. Judges in courts of 14 districts are elected in partisan elections.

KENTUCKY: All judges are elected in nonpartisan elections to eight-year terms. Judges are subsequently reelected to additional terms.

LOUISIANA: All judges are elected in partisan elections. Appellate judges are elected to 10-year terms, while district court judges are elected to six-year terms. Judges are subsequently reelected to additional terms.

MAINE: Judges are appointed by the governor for seven-year terms. Judges are reappointed by the governor, subject to confirmation by the legislature.

MARYLAND: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission to one-year terms. Appellate judges are subject to retention elections for subsequent 10-year terms. Circuit court judges are selected in nonpartisan elections.

MASSACHUSETTS: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission. Judges serve until they reach the age of 70.

MICHIGAN: Supreme court judges are elected in partisan elections to eight-year terms. Intermediate appellate court judges and circuit court judges are elected in nonpartisan elections to six-year terms. All judges are subsequently reelected to additional terms.

MINNESOTA: All judges are appointed by nonpartisan elections. The initial term of office is six years. Judges are subsequently reelected to additional terms.

MISSISSIPPI: All judges are appointed by nonpartisan elections. The initial term of office is eight years, except for chancery court and circuit court judges, who are elected to four-year terms. Judges are subject to reelection for additional terms.

MISSOURI: Appellate court judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission to one-year terms. These judges are subject to retention elections for 12-year terms. Circuit court judges are elected to six-year terms and are subject to reelection for additional terms.

MONTANA: Judges are elected by nonpartisan elections. Judges are subject to reelection, except that unopposed judges are subject to retention elections.

NEBRASKA: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission to three-year terms. Judges are subject to retention elections for six-year terms.

NEVADA: All judges are appointed by nonpartisan elections to six-year terms. Judges are subject to re-election for additional terms.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: All judges are appointed by the governor. Judges serve until they reach the age of 70.

NEW JERSEY: All judges are appointed by the governor to seven-year terms. Judges are reappointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate.

NEW MEXICO: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission.

NEW YORK: Appellate court judges are chosen through a merit selection involving a nominating commission. Judges on the Court of Appeals serve 14 years, while judges in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court serve five-year terms. Supreme Court and county court judges are elected in partisan elections.

NORTH CAROLINA: All judges are selected in nonpartisan elections. The initial term of office is eight years, and judges are subject to reelection.

NORTH DAKOTA: All judges are selected in non-partisan elections. The initial term of office for the supreme court is ten years, while district court judges are elected to six-year terms. Judges are reelected to additional terms.

OHIO: All judges are selected in partisan elections for six-year terms. Judges are reelected to additional terms.

OKLAHOMA: Appellate court judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission to one-year terms. These judges are subject to retention elections for additional six-year terms. District court judges are selected in non-partisan elections for four-year terms and are reelected for additional terms.

OREGON: All judges are selected in nonpartisan elections for six year terms. Judges are reelected for additional terms.

PENNSYLVANIA: All judges are selected in partisan elections for ten-year terms. Judges are subject to retention elections for additional ten-year terms.

RHODE ISLAND: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission. Judges serve life tenure.

SOUTH CAROLINA: The state employs a 10-member Judicial Merit Selection Commission to screen judicial candidates. This committee recommends candidates to the General Assembly, which appoints judges. Judges are subject to reappointment by the legislature.

SOUTH DAKOTA: Supreme court judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission for a three-year term. These judges are subject to retention elections for eight-year terms. Circuit court judges are selected in non-partisan elections for eight year terms and are re-elected for additional terms.

TENNESSEE: Appellate court judges are chosen through a merit selection process involving a nominating commission. These judges are subject to retention elections for additional eight-year terms. Judges in the chancery courts, criminal courts, and circuit courts are selected in partisan elections for eight-year terms and are reelected for additional terms.

TEXAS: All judges are selected in partisan elections. Appellate judges are elected to six-year terms, while district court judges are elected to four-year terms. Judges are subsequently reelected to additional terms.

UTAH: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process by a nominating committee. Judges are subject to retention elections for additional terms.

VERMONT: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process by a nominating committee for six-year terms. Judges are retained by a vote of the General Assembly for additional six-year terms.

VIRGINIA: All judges are appointed by the legislature. Supreme court justices are selected for 12 years, while lower court judges are selected for eight year terms. The legislature reappoints judges for additional terms.

WASHINGTON: All judges are selected in nonpartisan elections. Appellate court judges are elected to six-year terms, while superior court judges are elected to four-year terms. Judges are reelected for additional terms.

WEST VIRGINIA: All judges are selected through partisan election. Supreme court justices are elected for 12 years, while circuit court judges are selected for eight-year terms. Judges are reelected for additional terms.

WISCONSIN: All judges are selected through non-partisan election. Supreme court justices are elected to ten-year terms, while lower court judges are elected to six-year terms. Judges are reelected for additional terms.

WYOMING: All judges are chosen through a merit selection process by a nominating committee for one-year terms. Judges are subject to retention elections for additional terms.

Additional Resources

Advice and Consent: The Politics of Judicial Appointments. Epstein, Lee and Jeffrey A. Segal, Oxford University Press, 2005.

Choosing Justice: The Recruitment of State and Federal Judges. Sheldon, Charles H. and Linda S. Maule, WSU Press, 1997.

Judicial Selection in the States: Appellate and General Jurisdiction Courts. American Judicature Society, 2004. Available at: http://www.ajs.org/js/JudicialSelectionCharts.pdf.

The Relationship Between Judicial Performance Evaluations and Judicial Elections. Brody, David C., Judicature, Jan. 2004. Available at: http://www.kcba.org/judicial_selection/pdf/brody.pdf.