Judicial selection in Minnesota

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Minnesota
Seal of Minnesota.png
Minnesota Supreme Court
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Minnesota Court of Appeals
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Minnesota District Courts
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   6 years

Selection of state court judges in Minnesota occurs through nonpartisan elections. Judges must run for re-election if they wish to serve additional terms.[1]

Almost all element's of Minnesota's unified judicial system are identical, including policies on term length, interim vacancies and judge qualifications. The courts differ from one another in their selection of the chief judge or justice.[1]

Selection process

See also: Nonpartisan election of judges

Judges of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Minnesota Court of Appeals and Minnesota District Courts are all chosen in nonpartisan elections to six-year terms. Candidates compete in primaries, from which the top two contestants advance to the general election.[1] For more information on these elections, visit Ballotpedia's Minnesota judicial elections page.

Sitting judges must run for re-election if they wish to serve additional terms. While party affiliation is not designated on the ballot, incumbency is.[1]

Selection of the chief judge or justice

The process of selecting a chief judge or justice varies from court to court:


Interim vacancies are filled via gubernatorial appointment. Appointed judges serve until the next general election occurring more than one year after their appointment.[1]

Judicial nominating commission

In 1989, a judicial nominating commission was created to help the governor fill vacancies on the Minnesota District Courts. (Some governors enlist the commission's help in filling appellate vacancies as well). When a vacancy occurs on one of the district courts, the commission screens and evaluates applicants for the position and submits a list of three to five candidates to the governor. The governor is not bound to the commission's recommendations.[2]

The commission is made up of 49 members:

  • 27 members are appointed by the governor and serve at the governor's will.
  • 22 members are appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court and serve four-year terms that end when the governor's term ends.[2]


Judges of all courts are required to be "learned in the law" and under 70 years old. Sitting judges who reach the age of 70 while in office are allowed to serve until the last day of that month.[1][3]


Judicial selection in Minnesota has undergone several significant changes since the inception of the judiciary. Below is a timeline of the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest:

  • 1989: The commission of judicial selection was created by the Minnesota Legislature to screen candidates for district court vacancies.
  • 1983: The Minnesota Court of Appeals was established.
  • 1912: The state legislature established a nonpartisan ballot for judges.
  • 1883: Judges' terms were reduced to six years.
  • 1857: Established that all judges were to be elected by popular vote to seven-year terms.[4]

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.[5]

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


MinnesotaMinnesota Supreme CourtMinnesota Court of AppealsMinnesota District CourtsMinnesota Problem-Solving CourtsMinnesota Tax CourtMinnesota Workers' Compensation Court of AppealsUnited States District Court for the District of MinnesotaUnited States bankruptcy court, District of MinnesotaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Eighth CircuitMinnesota countiesMinnesota judicial newsMinnesota judicial electionsJudicial selection in MinnesotaMinnesotaTemplate.jpg