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Judicial selection in Wisconsin

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Wisconsin
Seal of Wisconsin.png
Wisconsin Supreme Court
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   10 years
Wisconsin Court of Appeals
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Wisconsin Circuit Courts
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years

Selection of state court judges in Wisconsin occurs exclusively through non-partisan elections. At the end of each judge's term, he or she must run for re-election to continue serving.[1]

With judicial elections held in April, judges' terms begin on August 1 following their election.[2]

Selection process

See also: Non-partisan election of judges

The 7 justices of the supreme court, 16 judges of the court of appeals and 241 judges of the circuit court are selected in an identical manner. They are chosen by the people in statewide non-partisan elections, after which supreme court justices serve 10-year terms and the others serve six-year terms. All judges must run for re-election if they wish to continue serving after their term expires.[1]

To learn more about these elections, visit the Wisconsin judicial elections page.

Selection of the chief justice or judge

The guidelines for selecting a chief justice or judge for each court differ:

  • The chief justice of the supreme court is chosen by seniority and serves in that capacity indefinitely.
  • The chief judge of the court of appeals is chosen by the supreme court to serve a three-year term.
  • The chief judge of each circuit court is chosen by the supreme court to serve a two-year term.[1]


To serve on the appellate or circuit courts, a judge must be:

  • a qualified elector in the state;
  • a qualified elector of his or her circuit (for circuit judges); and
  • licensed to practice law in the state for at least 5 years.[1]


See also: Gubernatorial appointment of judges

In the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement. If the vacancy occurs between December 1 and the spring election, the appointee must stand for election the following spring. If the vacancy occurs earlier, judges stand for re-election during the next spring election in which no other justice or judge from their district is being elected.[1]

The governor solicits recommendations from an Advisory Council on Judicial Selection in making his appointments, but he is not required to choose one of the suggested appointees.[3][1]

Municipal Courts

See also: Non-partisan election of judges

Like appellate and circuit judges, judges of the Wisconsin Municipal Courts are chosen in non-partisan elections. They serve four-year terms that begin on May 1, though local ordinances may override that term length.[4][5] Eligibility requirements vary from court to court, with some municipalities requiring judges to have law degrees, but all judges must participate in a continuing judicial education program.[6]


Selection methods in Wisconsin 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:

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.[8]

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


WisconsinWisconsin Supreme CourtWisconsin Court of AppealsWisconsin Circuit CourtsWisconsin Municipal CourtsUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of WisconsinUnited States District Court for the Western District of WisconsinUnited States bankruptcy court, Eastern District of WisconsinUnited States bankruptcy court, Western District of WisconsinUnited States Court of Appeals for the Seventh CircuitWisconsin countiesWisconsin judicial newsWisconsin judicial electionsJudicial selection in WisconsinWisconsinTemplate.jpg