Judicial selection in Utah

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Utah
Seal of Utah.png
Utah Supreme Court
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt. with senate confirmation
Term:   10 years
Utah Court of Appeals
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt. with senate confirmation
Term:   6 years
Utah District Courts
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt. with senate confirmation
Term:   6 years
Utah Justice Courts
Method:   County commission/city official appointment
Term:   6 years

Selection of state court judges in Utah occurs almost exclusively through the commission-selection, political appointment method. Following an initial three-year term, appointed judges must be approved by voters in yes-no retention elections, after which they may serve full terms that vary in length by court level.[1]

Retained judges' terms begin on the first Monday in January following their retention.[2]

Appellate and district courts

See also: Commission-selection, political appointment method of judicial selection

The 5 justices of the supreme court, 7 judges of the court of appeals and 70 judges of the district courts are selected in an identical manner. When a vacancy occurs on the court, the governor appoints a replacement from a list of seven names (or five for the district courts) recommended by a nominating commission. The nominee then faces approval from the Utah Senate.[1][3]

New appointees serve for at least three years, after which they must run in a yes-no retention election. If retained, supreme court justices serve subsequent terms of ten years while court of appeals and district court judges serve subsequent terms of six years.[1]

Selection of the chief justice or judge

The chief justice or judge of each appellate and district court is selected by peer vote. The chief justice of the supreme court serves in that capacity for four years, while the chief judges of the court of appeals and district courts serves a two-year term.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on the Utah Supreme Court, a judge must be:

  • a resident of the United States;
  • a state resident for at least 5 years;
  • admitted to practice law in the state;
  • at least 30 years old; and
  • no more than 75 years old.*[1]

To serve on the Utah Court of Appeals or the Utah District Courts, a judge must be:

  • a resident of the United States;
  • a state resident for at least 3 years;
  • admitted to practice law in the state;
  • at least 25 years old; and
  • no more than 75 years old.*[1]

*Sitting judges who turn 75 while in office may continue serving until the end of their term, but they are not eligible to run for retention.[4]

Juvenile Court

See also: Commission-selection, political appointment method of judicial selection

Like the appellate and district courts, juvenile court judges are appointed by the governor from a list of names provided by a nominating commission. After an initial three-year term, all judges must run in yes-no retention elections. Subsequent terms last six years.[5][6]

Qualifications

To serve on one of the juvenile courts, a judge must be:

  • a citizen of the United States;
  • a state resident for at least 3 years;
  • admitted to practice law in the state;
  • at least 25 years old; and
  • no older than 75 years old.*[5][4]

*Sitting judges who turn 75 while in office may continue serving until the end of their term, but they are not eligible to run for retention.[4]

Justice Court

See also: Commission-selection, political appointment method of judicial selection

Two types of justice court judges are found in Utah: county judges and municipal judges. Like most other judges, county judges are appointed by the governor from a list of names provided by a nominating commission. Municipal judges are appointed by city officials.[5]

After an initial three-year term, all county judges must run in yes-no retention elections at the end of their terms while municipal judges must be reappointed. Subsequent terms last six years.[6]

Qualifications

To serve on one of the justice courts, a judge must be:

  • a citizen of the United States;
  • a state resident for at least 3 years;
  • a resident of his or her respective county or an adjacent county;
  • a qualified voter of his or her county;
  • a high school graduate or equivalent;
  • a person who has "demonstrated maturity of judgement";
  • at least 25 years old; and
  • under 75 years old.*[7]

*Sitting judges who turn 75 while in office may continue serving until the end of their term, but they are not eligible to run for retention.[4]

History

Selection methods in Utah have undergone several changes since the inception of the judiciary. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest:

  • 2007: The Judicial Retention Election Task Force is created to make suggestions regarding selection and retention in the state.
  • 1994: Per suggestion of Governor Mike Leavitt, who felt he was not being given the right quality or quantity of judicial nominees to choose from, the Utah Legislature amends the laws regarding judicial nominating commissions:
    • Existing commissions are dissolved, allowing the governor to appoint all commissioners.
    • The chief justice, while still a member of the commission, no longer has voting privileges.
    • The number of judicial candidates nominated per vacancy is increased to seven.
  • 1987: The Utah Court of Appeals is created.
  • 1985: Merit selection becomes the exclusive method for choosing judges of courts of record. Judges are nominated by a commission, appointed by the governor, confirmed by the senate and retained in uncontested retention elections.
  • 1967: The legislature establishes judicial nominating commissions to assist in filling judicial vacancies. Judges serve additional terms by being re-elected in contested non-partisan elections (except when judges are running unopposed, in which case voters are asked if they should be retained).
  • 1951: The legislature makes judicial elections nonpartisan.
  • 1945: The constitution is amended:
    • Judges are to be appointed by the governor "solely upon consideration of fitness for office without regard to partisan political considerations."
    • Judges serve additional terms by running in contested partisan elections.
    • Supreme court judges' term lengths are increased to ten years; district court judges' terms are increased to six years.
  • 1896: Supreme court judges are elected by popular vote to six-year terms; district court judges are elected to four-year terms.[8]

Selection of federal judges

United States District Court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[9]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links

References

UtahUtah Supreme CourtUtah Court of AppealsUtah District CourtsUtah Juvenile CourtsUtah Justice CourtsUnited States District Court for the District of UtahUnited States bankruptcy court, District of UtahUnited States Court of Appeals for the Tenth CircuitUtah countiesUtah judicial newsUtah judicial electionsJudicial selection in UtahUtahTemplate.jpg