Wisconsin Question 1: How are chief justices picked in other states?

One of the questions that has come up within the context of Wisconsin Question 1 is what do other states do? Since the Revolution (or admission as states) there have been five main methods of selection, of which four remain plus Indiana:

  1. Court Selection: presently in place in 22 states covering 23 courts if last resort (Oklahoma Supreme Court + Court of Criminal Appeals).
  2. Gubernatorial Appointment: 12 states/12 courts. Seen most often in New England states, this typically includes Senate or House and Senate confirmation.
  3. Partisan or Non-partisan election: 7 states covering 8 courts (Texas Supreme Court + Court of Criminal Appeals). In these cases the person is running for the specific office of Chief Justice and not simply to be a member of the court. For example in 2014 when Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht ran for re-election, it was to the office of Chief Justice as seen on this sample ballot.
  4. Seniority: 7 states/7 courts. “Strict” seniority such as in Wisconsin provides that the person longest serving on the court is chief justice. “Rotational” seniority such as in Nevada functions in a similar fashion, but requires the next-most-senior justice take over after 1 or 2 years.
  5. Legislative appointment: 1 state/1 court. More common in the earliest part of U.S. history, the only state that retains this practice is South Carolina.
  6. Other: 1 state/1 court. In Indiana, it is the Judicial Nominating Commission, without input from the governor, who selects the Chief Justice from among the already serving justices. This occurred most recently in 2014 when then-Chief Justice Brent Dickson went back to being Associate Justice Dickson and Loretta Rush was elevated to be chief justice.

State by state details below the fold.

Court Selection (22 states, 23 courts)

  1. Alaska: The chief justice shall be selected from among the justices of the supreme court by a majority vote of the justices. Art. IV, Sec. 2
  2. Arizona: The chief justice shall be elected by the justices of the supreme court from one of their number for a term of five years, and may be reelected for like terms. Art. VI, Sec. 3
  3. Colorado: The supreme court shall select a chief justice from its own membership to serve at the pleasure of a majority of the court, who shall be the executive head of the judicial system. Art. VI, Sec. 5
  4. Florida: The chief justice of the supreme court shall be chosen by a majority of the members of the court… Art. V, Sec. 2
  5. Georgia: The Supreme Court shall consist of not more than nine Justices who shall elect from among themselves a Chief Justice as the chief presiding and administrative officer of the court and a Presiding Justice to serve if the Chief Justice is absent or is disqualified. Article VI. Section IV. Paragraph 1
  6. Idaho: The chief justice shall be selected from among the justices of the Supreme Court by a majority vote of the justices. Art. V, Sec. 6
  7. Illinois: Supreme Court Judges shall select a Chief Justice from their number to serve for a term of three years. Art. VI, Sec. 3
  8. Iowa: The justices of the supreme court shall select one justice as chief justice, to serve during that justice’s term of office. Iowa Code 602.4103
  9. Kentucky: The Justices of the Supreme Court shall elect one of their number to serve as Chief Justice for a term of four years. Section 110(5)(a)
  10. Michigan: One justice of the supreme court shall be selected by the court as its chief justice as provided by rules of the court. (Art. VI, Sec. 3).
  11. Missouri: The judges of the supreme court shall elect from their number a chief justice… Art. V, Sec. 8
  12. New Mexico: At their first meeting in April of each even-numbered year, the justices of the supreme court shall, by a majority vote, designate one of their number, not appointed, to serve as chief justice. N.M.S.A. 34-2-1
  13. North Dakota (jointly with District Court judges): The judges of the supreme court and district courts shall appoint from the members of the supreme court a chief justice. ND Cent. Code. 27-02-01
  14. Oklahoma (Court of Criminal Appeals): The Judges shall choose from among their members a Presiding Judge O.S. 20.35
  15. Oklahoma (Supreme Court): The Justices shall choose from among their members a Chief Justice and a Vice Chief Justice. Art. 7, Sec. 2
  16. Oregon: The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall be a judge of the court selected by vote of a majority of the judges of the court. O.R.S. 2.045
  17. South Dakota: The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall be selected from among the justices of the Supreme Court by a majority vote of the justices for a term of four years without limitation in successive terms. S.D.C.L. 16-1-2.1
  18. Tennessee: The judges shall designate one of their own number who shall preside as chief justice. Art. VI, Sec. 2
  19. Utah: The justices of the Supreme Court shall elect a chief justice from among the members of the court by a majority vote of all justices. Utah Code 78A-3-101
  20. Virginia: The Chief Justice shall be elected by majority vote of the justices of the Supreme Court to serve a term of four years. Va. Code Ann. 17.1-300
  21. Washington: The supreme court shall select a chief justice from its own membership to serve for a four-year term at the pleasure of a majority of the court as prescribed by supreme court rule. Art. IV, Sec. 3
  22. Wyoming: The justices of the court shall elect one of their number to serve as chief justice for such term and with such authority as shall be prescribed by law. Art. V, Sec. 4
  23. West Virginia: Provision shall be made by rules of the supreme court of appeals for the selection of a member of the court to serve as chief justice thereof. Art. VIII, Sec. 2

Gubernatorial Appointment (12 states, 12 courts)

  1. California: The Governor shall fill vacancies in those courts [a judge of the Supreme Court or a court of appeal] by appointment…A nomination or appointment by the Governor is effective when confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. Art. VI, Sec. 16(d)
  2. Connecticut: The judges of the supreme court and of the superior court shall, upon nomination by the governor, be appointed by the general assembly in such manner as shall by law be prescribed. Article V & Amendment Article XX
  3. Delaware: One of them shall be the Chief Justice who shall be designated as such by his or her appointment and who when present shall preside at all sittings of the Court….The Justices of the Supreme Court …shall be appointed by the Governor, by and with the consent of a majority of all the members elected to the Senate. Art. V, Secs. 2 & 3
  4. Hawaii: The governor, with the consent of the senate, shall fill a vacancy in the office of the chief justice. Art. 6, Sec. 3
  5. Maine: The Governor shall nominate, and, subject to confirmation as provided herein, appoint all judicial officers… Art. V, Sec. 8
  6. Maryland: One of the Judges of the Court of Appeals shall be designated by the Governor as the Chief Judge. Art. 5, Sec. 14
  7. Massachusetts: All judicial officers…shall be nominated and appointed by the governor, by and with the advice and consent of the council… Ch. II, Sec. I, Part IX
  8. Nebraska: In the case of any vacancy in the Supreme Court or in any district court or in such other court or courts made subject to this provision by law, such vacancy shall be filled by the Governor from a list of at least two nominees presented to him by the appropriate judicial nominating commission. Art. V, Sec. 21
  9. New Jersey: The Governor shall nominate and appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the Chief Justice and associate justices of the Supreme Court… Art. VI, Sec. VI
  10. New York: The governor shall appoint, with the advice and consent of the senate, from among those recommended by the judicial nominating commission, a person to fill the office of chief judge. Art. VI, Sec. 2(e)
  11. Rhode Island: The governor shall fill any vacancy of any justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court by nominating, on the basis of merit, a person from a list submitted by an independent non-partisan judicial nominating commission, and by and with the advice and consent of the senate, and by and with the separate advice and consent of the house of representatives. Art. XX, Sec. 4
  12. Vermont: The Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall fill a vacancy in the office of the Chief justice of the State. Ch. II, Sec. 32

Partisan or Non-partisan election (7 states, 8 courts)

  1. Alabama: The Supreme Court, except as otherwise provided, shall consist of a chief justice and eight associate justices, who shall be elected by the qualified electors of the state at the general elections. Ala. Code 12-2-1
  2. Arkansas: The Supreme Court shall be composed of seven Justices, one of whom shall serve as Chief Justice. The Justices of the Supreme Court shall be selected from the State at large. The Chief Justice shall be selected for that position in the same manner as the other Justices are selected. Amend. 80, Sec. 2
  3. Minnesota: The supreme court consists of one chief judge and not less than six nor more than eight associate judges as the legislature may establish…The term of office of all judges shall be six years and until their successors are qualified. They shall be elected by the voters from the area which they are to serve in the manner provided by law. Art. 6, Secs 2 & 7
  4. Montana: Nonpartisan election OR, if running unopposed, yes/no retention election. M.C.A. 13-14-211 through -213
  5. North Carolina: Nonpartisan elections. G.S. 163-321 through 163-335
  6. Ohio: The chief justice and the justices of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the electors of the state at large, for terms of not less than six years. Art. IV, Sec. 6
  7. Texas (Court of Criminal Appeals): The Presiding Judge and the Judges shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state at a general election and shall hold their offices for a term of six years. Art. V, Sec. 4
  8. Texas (Supreme Court): Said Justices shall be elected (three of them each two years) by the qualified voters of the state at a general election; shall hold their offices six years; and shall each receive such compensation as shall be provided by law. Art. V, Sec. 2

Seniority (7 states, 7 courts)

  1. Kansas: The justice who is senior in continuous term of service shall be chief justice, and in case two or more have continuously served during the same period the senior in age of these shall be chief justice. Art. 3, Sec. 3
  2. Louisiana: The judge oldest in point of service on the supreme court shall be chief justice. Art. 5, Sec. 6
  3. Mississippi: The judge of the Supreme Court who has been for the longest time continuously a member of the court shall be chief justice. Miss. Code Ann. § 9-3-11
  4. Nevada: [T]he senior justice in commission shall be Chief Justice; and in case the commission of any two or more of said justices shall bear the same date, they shall determine by lot, who shall be Chief Justice. Art. VI, Sec. 3
  5. New Hampshire: On the effective date of this section, the administrative position of chief justice shall be held by the justice with the most seniority on the court for a period of up to 5 years. R.S.A. 490:1
  6. Pennsylvania: The Chief Justice and president judges of all courts with seven or less judges shall be the justice or judge longest in continuous service on their respective courts. Art. V, Sec. 10(d)
  7. Wisconsin: The justice having been longest a continuous member of said court, or in case 2 or more such justices shall have served for the same length of time, the justice whose term first expires, shall be the chief justice. Art. VII, Sec. 4

Other (2 states, 2 courts)

  1. Indiana (Judicial nominating commission appoints): The Chief Justice of the State shall be selected by the judicial nominating commission from the members of the Supreme Court and he shall retain that office for a period of five years. Art. VII, Sec. 3
  2. South Carolina (Legislative appointment): The members of the Supreme Court shall be elected by a joint public vote of the General Assembly for a term of ten years… Art. V, Sec. 2

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