University of Denver

Selection & Retention of State Judges: Methods from Across the Country

Updated July 2017
Former Manager, Quality Judges Initiative

It is no surprise that there is much confusion around how judges get to be judges in the United States. No two states use the same method to select and retain their judges, and even in individual states, the method may vary by the level of court and even location. Some states elect their judges in partisan contests; in some states, governors make appointments to the bench; in others, to limit the role of politics, bipartisan committees interview and recommend candidates for appointment. And, there are still other states that do it differently, adding complication to an already complicated legal system.

This unique resource that shines a light on each state and its specific methods for selecting and retaining judges. Only available from IAALS, these easy-to-read charts break down how judges reach the bench, and how they stay there, across all three court levels:

  1. Courts of last resort (usually known as supreme courts);
  2. Intermediate appellate courts; and
  3. Trial courts of general jurisdiction