Judicial selection in Washington

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Washington
Seal of Washington.png
Washington Supreme Court
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Washington Court of Appeals
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Washington Superior Court
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   4 years
Washington District Courts
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   4 years

Selection of state court judges in Washington occurs through non-partisan elections. Judges wishing to serve multiple terms must run for re-election.[1]

Under the Washington Constitution, judges' terms begin on the first Monday in January following their election.[2]

Selection process

See also: Non-partisan election of judges

The 9 justices of the supreme court, 22 judges of the court of appeals and 186 judges of the superior court are selected in an identical manner. All judges compete in contested elections without reference to party affiliation and must run for re-election when their terms expire. Supreme court and court of appeals judges serve for six years while superior court judges serve for four.[1]

For more information on these races, which include both primaries and general elections, visit the Washington judicial elections page.

Selection of the chief justice or judge

The chief justice or judge of each court is selected by peer vote, though term lengths vary:

Qualifications

Eligibility requirements vary from court to court. The supreme and superior courts share a set of qualifications, some of which are outlined in the state constitution, but the court of appeals has a unique set.[3][1]

Supreme and superior courts

To serve on the supreme court or a superior court, a judge must be:

  • a resident and qualified voter of the state;
  • admitted to practice law in the courts of record in Washington; and
  • under the age of 75.*

Court of appeals

To serve on the court of appeals, a judge must be:

  • a resident of his or her district for at least 1 year;
  • admitted to practice law in the Washington courts for at least 5 years; and
  • under the age of 75.*

*No judge is eligible to run for office after attaining the age of 75. If a sitting judge turns 75 while serving, he or she may continue serving until the end of that calendar year.[2]

Vacancies

See also: Gubernatorial appointment of judges

In the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement. The appointee serves until the next general election, at which point he or she may run to serve for the remainder of the predecessor's term.[1][2]

Limited jurisdiction courts

Washington's limited jurisdiction courts (the district courts and municipal courts) vary in their selection processes.

District Court

See also: Non-partisan election of judges

Judges of the district courts are chosen in non-partisan elections. They serve four-year terms, after which they must run for re-election if they wish to continue serving.[4][5]

To serve on a district court, a judge must be:

  • a resident and registered voter of his or her district;
  • one of the following: licensed to practice law in the state; a former district judge, municipal judge, police judge or justice of the peace; able to pass a qualifying exam (in districts of more than 5000 people); and
  • under the age of 75.*[2][5]

*No judge is eligible to run for office after attaining the age of 75. If a sitting judge turns 75 while serving, he or she may continue serving until the end of that calendar year.[2]

Municipal Court

See also: Non-partisan election of judges

Judges of the municipal courts are chosen either in non-partisan elections or by appointment. They serve two-year terms, after which they face either re-election or reappointment.[4][5]

To serve on a district court, a judge must be:

  • a U.S. citizen and state resident;
  • licensed to practice in the state (except in municipalities of more than 5000 people); and
  • under the age of 75.*[5]

*No judge is eligible to run for office after attaining the age of 75. If a sitting judge turns 75 while serving, he or she may continue serving until the end of that calendar year.[2]

History

Selection methods in Washington 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:

  • 2006: The Washington Legislature reforms campaign finance guidelines, subjecting appellate court candidates to the same contribution limits that apply to other statewide offices. Superior court candidates are subject to the contribution limits that apply to state legislative candidates.
  • 1995: The chief justice of the supreme court, previously chosen through a complex rotation system, is now selected by peer vote. The chief's term is increased to four years.
  • 1969: The Washington Court of Appeals is created, its judges elected to six-year terms.
  • 1907: The party convention system used for nominating judges to the ballot is abolished, and a non-partisan elective system is established.
  • 1889: Under Washington's original constitution, supreme court judges are elected by popular vote to six-year terms and superior court judges are elected by popular vote to four-year terms.[6]

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.[7]

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

WashingtonWashington Supreme CourtWashington Court of AppealsWashington Superior CourtWashington District CourtsWashington Municipal CourtsUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of WashingtonUnited States District Court for the Western District of WashingtonUnited States bankruptcy court, Eastern District of WashingtonUnited States bankruptcy court, Western District of WashingtonUnited States Court of Appeals for the Ninth CircuitWashington countiesWashington judicial newsWashington judicial electionsJudicial selection in WashingtonWashingtonTemplate.jpg