University of Denver

Choosing Judges: Judicial Nominating Commissions and the Selection of Supreme Court Justices

Former Manager, Quality Judges Initiative
Founding Executive Director

This report details the judicial nominating commissions used to select supreme court justices in 30 states and the District of Columbia. In these jurisdictions, the nominating commission accepts applications for judicial vacancies, screens the applicants through steps laid out in state law, and recommends a shortlist of the best-qualified candidates to the governor for his or her ultimate appointment. Judicial nominating commissions are also the first component of the O’Connor Judicial Selection Plan.

The report examines why judicial nominating commissions are established in the first place, how their structure and operation differ across the nation, and what some of the best practices might be in building public trust in the process. We hope the publications can serve as a guide to help states improve their methods of selecting judges and, ultimately, secure qualified and impartial judges to serve on their courts.