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State of New York

Methods of Judicial Selection: New York

Judicial Nominating Commissions

In 1977, New York voters approved a constitutional amendment calling for merit selection of judges of the state’s highest court, the court of appeals. (For more information about the adoption of merit selection for the court of appeals, see Judicial Selection Reform: Examples from Six States.) When a vacancy occurs on the court of appeals, the commission on judicial nomination submits the names of three to seven candidates to governor, who appoints one of the candidates to fill the vacancy. The governor’s appointee must then be confirmed by the senate. Unlike most merit selection systems, judges do not run in retention elections to keep their seats. Instead, upon the expiration of their terms, they must reapply to the commission on judicial nomination and be considered along with other applicants. The commission on judicial nomination consists of twelve members: four chosen by the governor, four chosen by the chief judge of the court of appeals, and one each chosen by the president pro tem of the senate, the speaker of the assembly, the minority leader of the senate, and the minority leader of the assembly. The governor and the chief judge are each required to appoint two lawyers and two nonlawyers, and no more than two of each official’s appointees may be members of the same political party. Commission members serve four-year terms. Click here for the statute addressing the commission and here to view the commission's rules.

Since 1975, New York governors have created judicial screening committees by executive order to nominate candidates for appointment to other judicial offices. The state judicial screening committee recommends candidates for the court of claims; departmental judicial screening committees nominate elected supreme court justices for designation as justices of the appellate division of the supreme court, and consider candidates to fill interim vacancies on the supreme court. County judicial screening committees evaluate applicants for interim vacancies on the county court, surrogate’s court, and family court.

Since 1978, merit selection has been used to select judges of New York City’s criminal and family courts and to fill mid-term vacancies on the city’s civil court. Established by executive order, the mayor’s advisory committee on the judiciary evaluates applicants and nominates highly qualified candidates. The mayor may not appoint a judge who has not been nominated by the committee.

For more information, see Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status.