State judicial selection process


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The state judicial selection process involves the appointment ofjudges to courts for purposes of effective delivery of legalprocedures. This process varies widely across the US. However, thereare five main methods employed in the judicial selection process witheach having a unique set of guidelines governing the selectionprocedure. The legislative appointment is a selection process thathas gives the legislature sole power to appoint judges. This processis retained by only two states namely Virginia and South Carolina.

In South Carolina, the state has a ten-member judicial meritselection commission that is selected by citizens, both legislatorsand screen applicants to make recommendations to the legislature.According to Constance (2008), South Carolina has five Supreme Courtjudgeships, nine for court Appeals and 46 for circuit courts. Thereare 46 district circuit courts while the geographic basis ofselection is applicable for Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judgestatewide selection. The judicial merit selection commission submitsthree names of candidates to the general assembly for the selectionand screening of judgeships. The assembly then votes one of thecandidates or rejects the entire slate. Supreme Court, court ofappeal chief justices are elected through the same legislativeelection process, which is used to select all other judges.

The selection process in South Carolina starts by screening of thecandidates and recommending three candidates who are then voted bythe general assembly asserts Hogan (2006). The commission involved inthe screening process is made up of ten members five appointed bythe speaker three must be serving in the general assembly while twomust be selected by the general public. The commission weighs andselects the best-suited candidate for the role of a judge with regardto the requirements of the state’s law and gives the best qualifiedan opportunity to work as a judge for a specific period. Thequalifications for being a judge in South Carolina are age between32-72 years, being a citizen of the US, be a licensed attorney orstate resident for 5 years asserts Hogan (2006).

The length of term for judges in the Supreme Court is ten yearswhile for the court of appeal and circuit court is 6 yearsrespectively. South Carolina uses the legislative election to fillthe interim vacancies and the interim judges can stand for electionupon completion of unexpired term (Hogan, 2006). The chief judge andother judges in the Supreme Court and the court of appeal areselected through this process while the chief justice of the SupremeCourt designates those for the circuit court. Family court judges areelected by a joint public vote of the general assembly while thegovernor appoints magistrates for magistrate courts. The municipalcouncil appoints the municipal council judges while the probate courtjudge is voted through a popularly elected vote. The term formunicipal court judges cannot be less than two years or exceed fouryears.

A second state, qualifications and selection process

The UK has one of the oldest judicial systems in the world. Theadministration of judicial selection process in the UK greatlydiffers with that of South Carolina. Wai-Lam (2000) describes the UKcourt system as the highest court being the House of Lords followedby the court of appeal, which is divided, into the civil and criminaldivisions. Below the divisions follows the high court, which includesthe chancery division, family division and Queen ’s Bench division.The chancery deals with land, wills, insolvency and company issueswhile the family court deals with children welfare and divorce cases.The Queens’ bench deals with contracts, liability in tort andgeneral commercial matters. Below the high court, divisions arecounty courts, crown courts and magistrate courts. The Queen upon theprime ministers recommendation appoints the Lords of appeal. Theselection process of convention is followed to appoint them and notwritten law. The Queen appoints the four heads of division who arethe Lord Chief justice, vice chancellor, president of the family andmaster of the rolls. The method of appointment is not of written lawbut convention. The Queen on the Lord Chancellor’s recommendationalso appoints high court justices. This method of appointment usuallyis not written law but a matter of convention as with the previousappointments (Wai-Lam, 2000).

The administration judicial appointments take place through the LordChancellor supported by the permanent secretary and a judicialappointment group in exercising the appointment functions. Itinvolves the judicial appointment group supplying information to theLord Chancellor to make judgment on every appointment. Theinformation includes interview records with judges, legal professionsenior members and potential candidates. When selecting thecandidates, the Lord Chancellor adopts the following principles,strictly on merit for those who appear best qualified regardless oftheir gender, marital status, race, ethnic origin, politicalaffiliation, sexual orientation, religion, and disability except ifthe disability interferes with the fulfillment of physicalrequirements of office work asserts Wai-Lam (2000). Part time serviceappointments are normally a prerequisite for full time officeappointment. Before any consideration for full time judicial postappointment a candidate must have served in a part time capacity longenough to establish their competence and suitability for full timeappointment.

According to Wai-Lam (2000) the process of appointment of judgescommences following an invitation and advertisement by the justicesof the high court. All invitations are made by the Lord Chancellorwith information on who to be invited or the number of personsrecommended is remaining confidential. After the invitation oradvertisement, appointments are welcomed. The Lord Chancellorappoints those who applied followed by a consultation. Theconsultation process involves views and opinions collected in writingor face to face about the qualities and work of applicants by a widerange of judges and senior practitioners. The views form an opinionon the relative merits of a potential candidate. Later arecommendation is made followed by an appointment. The queen writes aletter to appoint qualified persons in the Lords of appeal or headsof division, lord justice and the high court.

Compare and contrast both states, the necessary qualifications of aprospective candidate

The similarities between the US and UK necessary qualifications forprospective candidates to become a judge are similar to some extent.They both require skills and abilities like sound judgment,intellectual and analytical ability, decisiveness, communicationskills and authority. The personal qualities of prospective judgesinclude integrity for both states requiring the candidates to have ahistory of discretion, honesty, moral courage, trust and confidenceand respect for others. Judges should also show a great understandingof people in the society, have fairness, have maturity and soundtemperament, courtesy and humanity and be committed to the publicservice and the administration of justice.

However, despite the similarities, the judicial selection processfor the two states greatly differs in some aspects. While the US(South Carolina) judicial selection process is a simple legislativeprocedure easily followed, the UK (England and Wales) selectionprocess is a lengthy and detailed procedure involving recommendationand appointments to the judicial system. The five court judgeshipsfor South Carolina are also not similar to the selection procedure ofLords, Vice chancellors, Chief Justice and Master of rolls who areappointed by the Queen and not by written law (Wai-Lam, 2000). Thequalifications for prospective candidates also differ significantly.To be a judge in South Carolina a candidate has to be a citizen of USor have been a judge in South Carolina, being a licensed attorney andbeing a state resident for 5 years asserts Constance (2008). In UK(Wales) for example different qualifications are gives for differentcourts with the High court justices required to have a 10 year rightaudience in the England high court or Wales having been a circuitjudge for two years or more (Wai-Lam, 2000).

Relevant steps taken to remove a judge from office for disciplinaryreasons for South Carolina are done in three ways. Investigation bythe Commission on judicial conduct on the misconduct complaints as adisciplinary counsel is appointed by the Supreme Court to evaluateeach complaint. Either the complaint being investigated is dismissedor preliminary investigations are carried out. Secondly, the House ofRepresentatives may impeach the judge. The governor and generalassembly may also remove the judge. In Wales, the house of parliamenthas the power to petition the queen for the removal of a judge fromthe high court or court appeal upon misconduct reports. The poweroriginates from the 1701 settlement act, which is now contained inthe 11th section of the 1981 Supreme court act.Interestingly though the act has never had to be exercised in Walesor England.

Justification the selection process for the state you believe has thebest system

I believe that both systems have great judicial selection processes.However, I would choose the South Carolina selection process as itappeals more to citizens and can be easily understood. Thelegislative election procedure makes citizens feel more involved inselecting judges especially the family court that gives room for ajoint public vote. While the UK Wales system is great as well, itscomplexity leaves no room for citizens to vote or understand it ifnot learned. Accessing top judicial appointments in the UK is alsovery challenging as at times the Queen makes those appointments. TheUS South Carolina selection process appears simpler and bettermeeting any interested candidates requirements more swiftly.


Constance, A. (2008). Judicial selection in SC-The process,Article V section 27 of SC constitution, Charleston school oflaw LWV of Charleston Area, retrieved from

Hogan, S. O.(2006).&nbspThejudicial branch of state government: People, process, and politics. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.

Wai-Lam, C. (2000). The process of appointment of judges in someforeign countries: The UK, Research and library servicedivision, legislative council secretariat, Hong Kong, retrieved from