Judicial Appointments by State Governors

In many states, the governor appoints judges of at least some courts. In states that use the O’Connor Judicial Selection Plan, the governor makes the appointment from the list of candidates submitted by the judicial nominating commission. See Judicial Nominating Commissions in the States for more information and a complete list of these states.

In a handful of other states, the governor appoints judges at his or her own discretion, without input from a judicial nominating commission.

Judges of the court of last resort (usually a state supreme court) are always chosen this way in five states:

  • California
  • Massachusetts
  • Maine
  • New Jersey
  • New Hampshire

The governor always appoints intermediate appellate court judges in three of the 40 states that have such courts:

  • California
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts

The governor always appoints judges of general jurisdiction trial courts in four states:

  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey

Appointment by the governor without input from a nominating commission is a process most often used in to fill vacancies in elective states that occur between elections or legislative sessions, and many judges in those states first come to the bench by this process. Midterm vacancies on at least some courts are filled via gubernatorial appointment in these states:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

 

Components of the O'Connor Judicial Selection Plan:

Judicial Nominating Commission

How It Works | States with Nominating Commissions

Gubernatorial Appointment

How It Works | States with Gubernatorial Appointment

Judicial Performance Evaluation

How It Works | States with Performance Evaluation

Retention Election

How It Works | States with Retention Elections