Election 2016

Judicial Selection for the 21st Century

brennancenter.orgThroughout American history, the process for selecting judges has greatly varied. With new and unique challenges in the 21st century, what selection methods best serves the needs of today?

Going back to the founding of the Republic, Americans have periodically had to rethink how state court judges were selected, balancing the twin ideals of judicial independence and judicial accountability. We began with the idea that governors and legislatures should choose. Then, concerned about capture of the courts by political elites, 19th century reformers posited that the people should choose via the ballot box. By the early 20th century, concerns about partisanship in elections led to the creation of merit selection — introducing a nonpartisan commission to screen for qualifications. Each of these selection systems continues today in at least some states.

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