Judicial selection in Rhode Island

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Rhode Island
Seal of Rhode Island.png
Rhode Island Supreme Court
Method:   Assisted appointment with house and senate confirmation
Term:   Life term
Rhode Island Superior Court
Method:   Assisted appointment with house and senate confirmation
Term:   Life term
Rhode Island Family Court
Method:   Assisted appointment with senate confirmation
Term:   Life term
Rhode Island District Court
Method:   Assisted appointment with senate confirmation
Term:   Life term
Rhode Island Workers' Compensation Court
Method:   Assisted appointment with senate confirmation
Term:   Life term
Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal
Method:   Assisted appointment with senate confirmation
Term:   Life term

Selection of state court judges in Rhode Island occurs through the assisted appointment method. The Rhode Island Judicial Nominating Commission evaluates and recommends candidates to the governor, whose appointee must be approved by the Rhode Island Senate.[1][2]

Rhode Island is one of only three states where judges serve lifetime terms, and, of those states, it is the only one without a mandatory retirement age.[3][1]

Supreme Court and Superior Court

See also: Assisted appointment

The five justices of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and the 22 judges of the Rhode Island Superior Court are selected in a nearly identical manner. Members of both courts are appointed by the governor with help from a nominating commission. One subtle difference is that supreme court nominees must be approved by both the state house and the state senate, while superior court nominees need only be approved by the senate.[1]

Selection of the chief justice or judge

The chief justice or judge of each court is also chosen by commission-selection, political appointment and legislature approval and, like other judges, serves in that capacity for life.[1]

Qualifications

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

  • an attorney;
  • licensed to practice law in the state; and
  • a member of the state bar in good standing.[1]

Vacancies

Because Rhode Island judges serve for life or until they retire, the concept of a "midterm vacancy" has little relevance to the state's selection process. When one judge retires or passes away in office, a replacement is found through commission selection, political appointment and legislature approval.[1]

Limited jurisdiction courts

Rhode Island's limited jurisdiction courts (the family courts, workers' compensation courts and traffic courts) select their judges in the same manner prescribed for the superior court. Judges are nominated by the governor from a list of names provided by a nominating commission, after which they face approval by the Rhode Island Senate. They are subject to the same qualifications as supreme and superior court judges as well.[4]

History

Selection processes in Rhode Island 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:

  • 2007: Legislation passed allowing the governor to choose judicial nominees from lists of finalists from the last five years.
  • 1994: Following efforts by various organizations to instate merit selection as the courts' selection method, the constitution was amended:
    • In June, a merit selection system was adopted for the lower courts.
    • In November, a merit selection system was adopted for the supreme court.
  • 1956: Superior, district and family court judges were appointed for life by the governor with senate consent.
  • 1932: District court judges were appointed to six-year terms by the governor with senate consent.
  • 1905: Superior court judges were elected for life by the Rhode Island General Assembly in grand committee.
  • 1902: District court judges were elected to three-year terms by the general assembly in grand committee.
  • 1842: Supreme court justices were elected by the general assembly in grand committee, and justices continued serving until a majority of each house passed a resolution declaring the seat vacant.[5]

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.[6]

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

References

Rhode IslandRhode Island Supreme CourtRhode Island Superior CourtRhode Island District CourtRhode Island Family CourtRhode Island Workers' Compensation CourtRhode Island Traffic TribunalUnited States District Court for the District of Rhode IslandUnited States bankruptcy court, District of Rhode IslandUnited States Court of Appeals for the First CircuitRhode Island countiesRhode Island judicial newsRhode Island judicial electionsJudicial selection in Rhode IslandRhodeIslandTemplate.jpg