The judicial selection process in the United States varies across different states significantly. Court systems are divided into two broad categories: those, in which federal courts focus on cases that affect different states, and those, in which state courts resolve issues that involve state laws. State judges can be selected by five methods, each of which depends on the distinct guidelines that are implemented by the specific state. First, in a partisan election, the electorate chooses the judges through a specific political party (ABA Coalition for Justice, 2008). In turn, judges that are elected through nonpartisan elections do not indicate their party affiliation. The state legislature can also select judges through legislative elections. In the case of gubernatorial appointment, the governor appoints the judge, and this decision may require the approval of a legislative body of a certain state. Lastly, a judge can also be appointed based on the merit; this process is also known as the Missouri plan. This paper critically analyzes the judicial selection process in Georgia and Florida, as well as compares and contrasts the two in order to choose the better one.
The Judicial Selection Process in Georgia
State court judges are selected principally through nonpartisan elections, in which interim vacancies in general and appellate jurisdiction courts are filled through the assisted appointment. However, the selection methods in the limited jurisdiction courts may involve a combination of an appointment approach, nonpartisan elections, and partisan elections (“Methods of Judicial Selection,” 2014). The Georgia Supreme court has seven justices that serve for a term of six years and then seek re-elections in order to retain their office. A peer vote is used for selecting the chief justice, who serves for a period of four years. The minimum qualifications for a judge include being a resident of Georgia and having practiced law for not less than seven years.
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The Georgia Court of Appeal has twelve judges that serve for a term of six years. The selection process is similar to that of the Supreme Court although the term of chief judges’ office is two years and not four as in the former. The Superior Courts Georgia has 202 judges that are selected through nonpartisan elections for a term of four years. The selection process is similar to the one of the Supreme Court, although the chief judge is selected differently by circuits (Smith, 2008). The minimum qualifications for these judges include being a state resident for not less than three years, being a circuit resident, having practiced law for not less than seven years, and being above 30 years of age.
Selection processes in limited jurisdiction courts vary although judges serve for the same term of four years. In probate courts, judges are selected through partisan elections, and their qualifications include being a U.S. citizen, 25 years old and above, county resident for a minimum of two years, having a minimum of high school diploma, and being a registered voter (Celeste, 2010). In Juvenile Courts, judges are appointed by superior court judges, and they are to be over 30 years old and have practiced law for over 7 years. In Magistrate Courts, judges are either appointed or elected for different terms through partisan elections. In State Courts, judges are selected through nonpartisan elections and must have practiced law for at least 7 years.
The Judicial Selection Process in Florida
There are two methods that are used to select state court judges; everything depends on the level of the court. Appellate courts select their judges through the assisted appointment, while trial courts use nonpartisan elections. The Supreme Court has seven justices, and the District Courts of Appeal have 60 justices that are selected via a similar procedure (“Judicial Selection in the States,” 2016). Judicial candidates are screened by the judicial nominating commission; as a result, six nominees are presented to the governor. New judges serve for a single year before going through a retention election in order to serve for a term of six years. The minimum qualifications include being a state resident and qualified elector, having practiced law for at least 10 years, and being below 70 years of age. A peer vote is used to select the chief justice of appellate courts that serves for a term of two years.
The circuit Court has 597 judges that are elected through nonpartisan elections; after six years, they have to seek reelection in order to retain their office (“History of Reform Efforts,” 2012). Similarly to appellate courts, a peer vote is used to select the chief judge who serves for a term of two years. Their judicial qualifications are similar to the appellate courts, but the judges should have practiced law for five years instead of ten. The County Court elects its judges through nonpartisan elections, and they serve for a period of six years before seeking reelection with the view to retaining their positions. An assisted appointment approach is used to select judges in the case there is a midterm vacancy. Judges hired through this process serve for a single years before being required to seek reelection. Judicial qualifications for them are similar to those of appellate courts (Schotland, 2007). However, they are required to have practiced law for a period of only five years instead of ten.
The Comparison between Georgia and Florida
Judicial selection processes in Georgia and Florida have both some similarities and differences. First, the main difference regards the selection process; Georgia selects its state court judges through nonpartisan elections, while in Florida, judges are selected via two methods: assisted appointment and nonpartisan elections (Celeste, 2010). Second, courts with limited jurisdiction in Georgia use different selection methods, which include a combination of partisan and nonpartisan elections. On the other hand, all judges in Florida are elected through nonpartisan elections.
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Another major difference is the number of subordinate courts. In Florida, all types of courts include Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, Circuit Court, and County Court. In turn, in Georgia, superior courts include Courts of Appeal and Supreme Court, while subordinate courts include Probate, Juvenile, Magistrate, and State Courts (Schotland, 2007). In Florida, judges are required to have practiced law for 10 years, and the chief justice here serves for two years only. Meanwhile, in Georgia, judges are required to have seven years of law practice, and a chief justice serves for the term of four years.
The main similarity between the judicial selection process in Georgia and Florida is that the assisted appointment process is usually used for appointing a judge whenever the seat becomes vacant. The judicial nomination commission usually vetoes some candidates before the names are presented to a governor for the appointment (“History of Reform Efforts,” 2012). Some of the basic similarities are that a judge must be a resident of the respective state and have practiced law for a certain number of years. Moreover, judges that are appointed on the interim basis usually serve for a period of less than one year before going through a retention election, in which the electorate either mandates them to complete the whole term or not.
The Removal of a Judge
In both Georgia and Florida, there are a number of steps that have to be taken for a judge to be removed from the office for disciplinary reasons. In Georgia, the judicial qualification commission is a body that is mandated with disciplining, removing, and retiring judges. The Supreme Court has to review any decisions to retire or remove a judge. Before this decision can be made, the House of Representatives has to impeach the judge; then, he or she is convicted by a vote of two-thirds of the Senate (“Methods of Judicial Selection,” 2016). Just like in Georgia, the Judicial Qualifications Commission in Florida makes a recommendation to a specific judge to face a disciplinary action. Later, the Supreme Court deliberates on whether the judge deserves to be disciplined, removed, or retired. The same procedure takes place in Georgia, where two-third of the House of Representative impeaches a judge that is then convicted by two-thirds of the Senate.
The State with the Best Judicial System
Georgia has the most appropriate judicial selection process due to the fact that its system utilizes more than two selection methods. Unlike in Florida, in which judges are selected through nonpartisan elections and assisted appointment only, in Georgia, judges can be selected either through nonpartisan elections, partisan elections, or assisted appointment. This practice provides Georgia with an opportunity to utilize the most effective selection method that applies to specific counties with a given number of people (Schotland, 2007). For instance, in counties with less than 40,000 people, judicial qualifications for candidates are lower; this feature provides additional opportunities to a wider range of potential judges. Nevertheless, it can be argued that judicial selection systems in both states are highly significant, and they lack any substantial differences. It implies that both systems enjoy similar benefits although the system in Florida has somewhat stricter requirements as compared to Georgia.
In conclusion, this paper has critically analyzed and compared judicial selection processes in Georgia and Florida. Both systems require potential candidates for the position of a judge to be a resident of respective states, have practiced law for at least seven years, and have an elector’s card. Florida adheres to nonpartisan and assisted appointment criteria, while Georgia uses a similar technique in addition to partisan elections. Judges in both states serve for between four and six years before they are required to go back to the electorate to seek for the mandate to serve for an additional term.