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Judicial selection in Connecticut

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Connecticut
Seal of Connecticut.png
Connecticut Supreme Court
Method:   Assisted appointment, legislative confirmation
Term:   8 years
Connecticut Appellate Court
Method:   Assisted appointment, legislative confirmation
Term:   8 years
Connecticut Superior Court
Method:   Assisted appointment, legislative confirmation
Term:   8 years
Connecticut Probate Courts
Method:   Partisan elections
Term:   4 years

Selection of the state court judges in Connecticut relies on the assisted appointment method. While all Connecticut's appellate and superior courts employ this method (and share almost every selection-related policy as well), the probate courts select their judges through partisan elections.[1][2]

Supreme, Appellate and Superior Court

See also: Assisted appointment

There are seven justices on the Connecticut Supreme Court, nine judges on the Connecticut Appellate Court and 170 judges on the Connecticut Superior Court. These judges are selected by a commission-selection, political appointment method whereby a judicial nominating commission screens candidates and submits a list of names to the governor, who must appoint a judge from that list. The appointee must then be confirmed by the Connecticut General Assembly.[1]

Judges of all three courts serve for eight years after their appointment, at which time they face renomination by the governor and approval by the assembly. Connecticut is relatively unique in that appointees' initial terms are no shorter than their subsequent ones.[1]


To serve on any of these three courts, a judge must be:

  • a state resident;
  • licensed to practice law in the state; and
  • under the age of 70 (retirement at 70 is mandatory).[1]

Selection of the chief judge or justice

The three courts vary in their selection of a chief judge or chief justice.

  • Connecticut Supreme Court: Like any other justice, the chief justice is appointed by the governor and approved by the legislature; however, the governor may nominate an associate justice to serve as chief without involving the judicial nominating commission. Justices appointed this way will serve out the remainder of their predecessor's term rather than a full eight years, which is the typical term length of the chief justice.
  • Connecticut Appellate Court: The chief judge of the appellate court is selected by the chief justice of the supreme court. The appellate chief serves in that capacity until he or she steps down from the office.[3]
  • Connecticut Superior Court: The chief judge of the superior court is chosen by the chief court administrator to serve for as long as the administrator sees fit.[1]


If a midterm vacancy occurs on one of the three courts, the seat is filled as it normally would be if the vacancy occurred at the end of a judge's term. A judicial nominating commission recommends qualified candidates to the governor and the governor selects a successor from that list with legislative approval. The new appointee serves an eight-year term.[1]

Probate court

See also: Partisan elections

Judges of the Connecticut Probate Courts are the only judges in the state to be chosen in partisan elections. They serve four-year terms that begin on the Wednesday after the first Monday in January following their election. At the end of their terms, judges must compete in a contested re-election if they wish to retain their seat.[2][4][5] For more information on these elections, visit the Connecticut judicial elections page.


To serve on the probate court, a judge must be:

  • a resident of the probate district and
  • over the age of 18; and
  • under the age of 70 (retirement at 70 is mandatory).[2]


If a midterm vacancy occurs on the probate court, a special election is held to fill the seat.[6][7]

Judicial Selection Commission

Connecticut's Judicial Selection Commission serves to screen and recommend judicial candidates to the governor for appointment to the superior, appellate and supreme courts. The twelve-person committee is composed of six lawyers (appointed by the governor) and six non-lawyers (appointed by the president pro tempore of the senate, the speaker of the house of representatives, the majority leaders of the house and senate and the minority leaders of the house and senate).[8]

Commission members serve for three years and cannot simultaneously hold any statewide office.[9]

Mandatory retirement

All judges in the state face mandatory retirement when they reach the age of 70. However, after reaching 70, a justice or judge may continue to serve as a judge trial referee (also known as a state referee) for the rest of his or her life. However, judges must be renominated and reappointed to serve in this capacity, and they must continue to meet certain conditions.[10]

A Connecticut judge's pension equals two-thirds of their salary if they work until age 70. Judges must retire by the age of 70, but there is no requirement on how long they must work before they are eligible for retirement. A judge who serves for three years and then retires receives the same pension as a judge who works for twenty years prior to retirement.[11]

Retired judges are allowed to collect their pension, in addition to a per diem amount for each day they serve as a judge trial referee. In addition, like all judges in Connecticut, retired judges are also reimbursed mileage for the costs they incur to commute to and from the court.[11]


Judicial selection methods in Connecticut have undergone significant changes in the last 200 years. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest.

  • 1986: The Judicial Selection Commission was created by constitutional amendment.
  • 1982: The Connecticut Appellate Court was created by constitutional amendment.
  • 1965: A new constitution was drafted by the constitutional convention, dictating that supreme court and superior court judges are to be nominated by the governor and appointed by the general assembly to eight-year terms.
  • 1880: Established that all judges are to be nominated by the governor and appointed by the general assembly to eight-year terms.
  • 1876: The term length of district court judges was changed from one year to four years.
  • 1856: The tenure of superior court judges was changed from "good behavior" to terms of eight years.
  • 1818: Established that all judges are to be appointed by the general assembly. Supreme court and superior court judges are to be appointed for life, while all other judges are appointed annually.
  • 1784: Established that all judges are to be elected by the general assembly, with tenure depending on the discretion of each general assembly.[12]

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 United States Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[13]

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


ConnecticutConnecticut Supreme CourtConnecticut Appellate CourtConnecticut Superior CourtConnecticut Probate CourtsUnited States District Court for the District of ConnecticutUnited States Court of Appeals for the Second CircuitConnecticut countiesConnecticut judicial newsConnecticut judicial electionsJudicial selection in ConnecticutConnecticutTemplatewithoutBankruptcy.jpg