Website Explains Judicial Selection
by Maureen Wagner
In recent years, the debate over the best method for choosing judges has captured an increasing amount of attention. In response to the growing interest in this issue, The Federalist Society created www.StateCourtsGuide.com to serve as an impartial source of information and educational materials for those interested in this topic, including state legislators, policymakers, opinion leaders, and the public at large.
As the site explains, there are four main methods of judicial selection: judicial elections (22 states), democratic appointment (5 states), the Missouri Plan (13 states), and some hybrid of those methods (10 states).
More and more legislators in state houses across the country are looking at those options and debating whether their own state should amend or change their method of selection. In just the past two years, several state legislatures (including Florida, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee) have considered legislation that would alter their method of selection, while other states (such as Nebraska) have considered measures to evaluate their method of selection. This spring, legislators in Tennessee received national attention when they voted to pass a constitutional amendment that would change the state’s method from Missouri Plan to democratic appointment. (Note: the amendment has to be approved by both chambers again in the next two-year General Assembly and then put on the ballot and passed by voters in 2014 in order to take effect.)
The debate has also been followed by experts and policymakers an all sides, and the topic has been editorialized in the Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, and national figures (such as retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor) continue to weigh in.
The purpose of www.StateCourtsGuide.com is to provide a one-stop resource for anyone interested in the subject of state judicial selection.
Its features include:
- An interactive map on the landing page, in which one can click on any state to learn how its judges are chosen. There is also basic information for each state’s high court: the number of judges, their terms, how a judge retains his seat on the bench, links to the state high court, breakdown of the makeup of judicial nominating commissions for Missouri Plan and hybrid states, and the relevant constitutional and/or statutory authority for all this information.
- A comprehensive body of scholarship on judicial selection — with links to all the articles available on the web.
- A Public Opinion page which features the most polling data on judicial selection and judicial philosophy than anywhere else on the web.
- Federalist Society white papers, multimedia, and other resources.
- A News page with news on judicial selection on each state’s high court from across the country, along with a specific newsfeed on each state’s supreme court on each state’s page.
- Other valuable resources, such as this one-page pdf on judicial selection in the U.S. and judicial election expert Professor Bonneau’s white paper, A Survey of Empirical Evidence Concerning Judicial Elections.
We hope the site will be valuable resource. If you have any questions about the site or the subject of judicial selection in the states, please contact me at the e-mail address below.
Maureen Wagner, Esq. is Deputy Director of the State Courts Project at The Federalist Society. She can be reached at [email protected].