Judicial selection in Ohio

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Ohio
Seal of Ohio.png
Ohio Supreme Court
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Ohio District Courts of Appeal
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Ohio Courts of Common Pleas
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Ohio County Courts
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Ohio Municipal Courts
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   6 years

Selection of state court judges in Ohio occurs through partisan primaries and nonpartisan general elections. All judges serve six-year terms, after which they must run for re-election if they wish to continue serving.[1]

Judges' terms begin on January 1 following their election.[2]

Selection process

See also: Nonpartisan election of judges

The seven justices of the Ohio Supreme Court, the 68 judges of the Ohio District Courts of Appeal and the 391 judges of the Ohio Courts of Common Pleas are all selected in an identical manner. Qualified individuals wishing to join the bench must participate in partisan primary elections followed by nonpartisan general elections.[1]

Supreme court candidates appear on ballots statewide, while court of appeals candidates are chosen in their respective appellate district and common pleas candidates by their respective counties.[1]

Visit the Ohio judicial elections page to learn more about these elections.

Selection of the chief justice or judge

The chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court is chosen by voters at large, serving a full six-year term in that capacity. Ohio is one of seven states in which the chief justice is elected by voters.

The chief judges of the Ohio District Courts of Appeal and Ohio Courts of Common Pleas are chosen by peer vote and serve for one year.[1]


To serve on an appellate or general jurisdiction court, a judge must be:

  • a district or county resident (for court of appeals and common pleas judges);
  • at least six years practiced in law; and
  • under the age of 70.[1]

Under the Ohio Constitution, a judge who reaches seventy years of age may be assigned by the chief justice to active duty, receiving payment on a per-day basis in addition to whatever retirement benefits he or she is entitled to.


In the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement. The appointee serves until the next general election taking place 40 more days after the vacancy occurred. If re-elected, the judge serves the remainder of his or her predecessor's unexpired term.[1]

In 2007, Governor Ted Strickland issued an executive order creating a judicial appointment recommendation panel to assist in making new appointments. The panel evaluates applicants and advises the governor, but the governor is not bound to the panel's recommendations.[1] A similar system was established in 1972 under Governor Jack Gilligan, but it was abolished by Governor James A. Rhodes three years later.[3]

Limited jurisdiction courts

See also: Nonpartisan election of judges

While Ohio's limited jurisdiction courts (the county courts, municipal courts, court of claims and mayor's courts) vary in their judicial selection processes:[4]

County Court Municipal Court Court of Claims Mayor's Court
Selection: Partisan primary, nonpartisan election Partisan primary, nonpartisan election Three-judge panels assembled as needed, assigned by supreme court Mayor presides or magistrate is appointed by mayor
Term: 6 years[5] 6 years[5] 6 years[5] Varies
Re-election method: Re-election Re-election Re-assignment Determined by mayor
Qualifications: County resident; licensed in state; 6 years practice of law Resident of municipality; licensed in state; 6 years practice of law or service as judge of court of record Not specified Determined by mayor


Selection processes in Ohio have undergone significant changes since the inception of the judiciary. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest:

  • 1968: The Modern Courts Amendment was passed, including a provision that retires judges upon their seventieth birthday. In 1989, the constitutionality of such provisions was challenged in federal court in Zielasko v. Ohio.
  • 1913: Terms of court of appeals judges were set at six years.
  • 1892: Terms of supreme court judges were set at six years.
  • 1883: Terms of supreme court judges were set at "not less than five years."
  • 1851: Circuit court judges were elected by popular vote to terms "not less than six years." Court of common pleas judges were elected by popular vote to six-year terms as well.
  • 1850: Established that supreme court justices are to be elected by popular vote.
  • 1802: Established that all judges are to be elected by both houses of the general assembly to seven-year terms.[6]

Reform efforts

Since the state has been using the same method of judicial selection since the 1912 Constitution was adopted, the last one hundred years have provided an opportunity for those opposed to the election of judges to call for reform.


On September 8, 2011, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor delivered her first State of the Judiciary address. In it, she encouraged judges to support the campaign for Issue 1, which would allow judges to serve until the age of 75. During the speech, she said she personally does not support any mandatory age of retirement for judges and justices. Also, O'Connor said she supported full nonpartisan primaries. Ohio is one of the only states in the nation that has partisan primaries but nonpartisan general elections.[7]

Commission-appointment of judges

In 1938 and 1987, citizens voted down proposals to switch to a commission-selection, political appointment method of judicial selection. In 2000 and 2003, commissions were formed to study the possibility of modifying the state's method of selection. None of these efforts were successful.[3]


Elections have been a contributing factor of the calls for change. Becoming highly contested, proponents for "merit selection" contend that the rancor cannot possibly end once election season is over. In addition, contested candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court in the 2010 elections spent at least half of a million dollars each.[8] That doesn't include spending from outside sources.

See also

External links