The United States has a unique court system. One of the elements that make it a unique system is the judicial selection process. The qualifications, method of selection and election and removal from the bench vary from state to state. The average person would believe there would be a Constitutional or statutory qualification to serve as a judge. This is not the case in the United States (Judicial Process in America 8th edition pg. 125 chapter 6). The states of Pennsylvania and Arizona have their own agenda when it comes to the judicial selection process.
In the state of Pennsylvania justices must meet the basic qualifications to serve on the bench that the state has in place (www.pacourts.us). These qualifications include, being a United States citizen and must have lived in the state for at least one year (www.pacourts.us). Each judicial must also meet the age requirement to serve as well. A judge cannot serve, if they are under the age of twenty one or older than seventy (www.pacourts.us). Each judicial must be a member of the Bar of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and also hold a strict standard of conduct (www.pacourts.us). Once these basic qualifications are met, they are then ready to hopefully be elected.
According to the judicial selection website, Pennsylvania does not use the Judicial Nominating Commissions as their method to selecting a justice to serve on the bench (www.judicialselctions.us). The justices run for election to gain a seat in the courts. They do this by campaigning and getting the necessary funds from donations and their political party. Elections in the state are held in odd numbered years. Once a justice is elected they can serve an unlimited amount of terms until the mandatory retirement age of seventy and are retained or re-elected by voters. Appellate Courts and Courts of Common Pleas judges serve ten year terms. All other court justices such as, Magisterial District and Traffic Court judges serve six year terms (www.pacourts.us). If there are any vacancies before an election they can be filled by the gubernational appointment (www.pacourts.us).
Now every state has a conduct policy for a judicial that is serving on the bench. In Pennsylvania, a judge can be removed in two ways. The first way they can be removed is if the judicial conduct board finds probable cause to file charges against the judge. They will then present it to the court of judicial discipline. From there, the court of judicial discipline has the authority to hand down sanctions and removal from office (www.judicialselection.us). The second way a judge could be removed is by the house of representatives and is convicted by two thirds senate. In the state of Arizona, the judicial process works on a different scale.
The qualifications to become a judge in the state of Arizona are more of a high standard than they are in Pennsylvania. In the state of Arizona one must be licensed to practice law before they can sit on the bench. To receive a seat on the Supreme Court, a judge must have ten years’ experience practicing law. To serve on the lower courts a judge needs a minimum five years’ experience to get a seat (www.judgepedia.org). Like the state of Pennsylvania, Arizona has a mandatory retirement age of seventy years old. On the other hand, on cannot serve as a judge until they are thirty years of age (www.judgepedia.org). The selection process to become a judicial in the state of Arizona is also different than Pennsylvania.
In the state of Arizona, there are no held elections for justices to serve on the bench. Justices are selected to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals by the Judicial Nominating Commissions. This is also known as the merit selection (www.judgepedia.com). When it comes to Arizona’s Superior Court, they are selected by the Commission selection in counties exceeding the population of 250,000. In the other thirteen counties, the judges are selected in the non- partisan election of judges (www.judgepedia.org). However if there is a vacancy on the bench, incoming new justices submit applications to the Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. From there, they form a list of potential justices and then the governor picks one from that list to serve.
One thing the state of Pennsylvania and Arizona has in common is their code of conduct policy. Justices can be removed in three ways in the state of Arizona. The first way they can be removed is to be impeached by a majority vote of the house of representatives and convicted by two thirds vote of the Senate (www.judicialselection.us). The second way they can be removed is by the Supreme Court on the recommendations of the commission of judicial conduct. Finally a judge can be subject to recall an election.
It is rather surprising that each state has their own way of selecting and electing justices to the bench. One would assume all fifty states would have the same format when selecting justices to serve. It is even more shocking that Pennsylvania does not even need to practice law before serving as a justice, and the state of Arizona does not even allow the citizens to vote their justices into the courts. This is what makes the United States judicial process so unique.
Carp, Robert A., Ronald Stidham, and Kenneth L. Manning. “chapter 6.” Judicial process in America. 8th ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011. 125. Print. “Judgepedia.” Judgepedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2013. <http://www.judgepedia.org>. “Judicial Selection in the States.” Judicial Selection in the States. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2013. <http://www.judicialselection.us>. cases, court, the most recent court news, and statistics.. “Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania.” Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. <http://www.pacourts.us>.