Judicial selection in California
|Judicial selection in California|
|California Supreme Court|
|California Courts of Appeal|
|California Superior Courts|
|Method:||Non-partisan election of judges|
California uses two different selection systems for selecting their judges. The state's appellate judges are chosen by gubernatorial appointment followed by commission confirmation. The state's trial judges are elected by popular vote.
Judges who serve on the state's federal district courts are appointed by the U.S. President who generally follows recommendations given by the state's U.S. Senators.
State trial courts
Candidates for the state's trial courts, the Superior Courts, compete in nonpartisan races in June and November of even numbered years. If only one candidate runs in June, election is automatic without the need for a vote and the name is not even listed on the ballot. When two or more candidates run in June, anyone who gets more than 50% of the vote is declared elected. When no candidate gets over 50%, the top two compete in a runoff election in November.
When to stand for election
Trial court terms
Judges of the municipal and superior courts, which are the state's trial courts, serve 6-year terms.
State appellate courts
- See also: Retention election
Supreme Court and appellate court justices are on the ballot only in November every four years when a governor is being elected. Justices who were appointed after the last gubernatorial election and those who are running for re-election after the expiration of the terms are listed without opposition on a nonpartisan ballot. Voters decide whether they continue in office or not by voting Yes or No. If the vote is No, the governor appoints a replacement who will be on the ballot in 4 years at the next gubernatorial election.
When to stand for election
Judges of the appellate courts run in the next gubernatorial election following appointment.
Appellate court terms
Commission on Judicial Appointments
The California Commission on Judicial Appointments is responsible for confirming appointments that the Governor of California makes to the California Supreme Court and the California Courts of Appeal.
Three members sit on the Commission. They are the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court (currently Ronald George), the Attorney General of California (currently Jerry Brown) and the senior presiding justice of the Court of Appeal of the appellate district to which a judge is being appointed. When a Supreme Court appointee is being considered, the third member of the commission is the state's senior presiding justice of the Courts of Appeal.
The commission convenes once the Governor has nominated or appointed a person to fill a vacancy on either the Supreme Court or one of the Courts of Appeal. The commission holds one or more public hearings to review the appointee's qualifications and may confirm or veto the appointment. No appellate appointment is final until the commission has filed its approval with the Secretary of State.
Selection of federal judges
In 2001, Boxer and Feinstein established a joint commission They referred to their commission as the "Judicial Advisory Committee". It was composed of four six-member subcommittees, one for each of the four federal district courts in California. Each of the four subcommittees had one member chosen by Boxer, one by Feinstein along with one person who was chosen jointly by both Boxer and Feinstein, and three members chosen by Gerald Parsky, who was President Bush’s State Chair for judicial appointments.
- Description of judicial selection in California produced by the League of Women Voters of California
- Guidelines for the California Commission on Judicial Appointments
- KCET.org, "When (and Why) We Vote for Judges," April 23, 2012