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Judicial Selection in the States: Utah

Overview

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A constitutional amendment discussed here and here to give Delaware s governor and senate more time to consider judicial nominations cleared its final hurdle. With...

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A plan discussed here to create publicly funded public forums to hear from candidates for Montana s non-partisan Supreme Court races is dead for the...

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A constitutional amendment discussed here to give Delaware s governor and senate more time to consider judicial nominations cleared the Senate last week. With House...

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Courtesy of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of...

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The Utah judiciary consists of a supreme court, a court of appeals, a district court, a juvenile court, and justice courts. Except for justice court judges, Utah's judges are chosen through a merit selection process. The governor fills all judicial vacancies from a list of candidates submitted by a judicial nominating commission. The governor's appointee must then be confirmed by a majority vote of the senate.

Utah is one of only eight states that requires senate confirmation of judicial appointees. In the senate, appointees are first considered by a seven-member confirmation committee. The confirmation committee then votes on whether to recommend appointees to the full senate. In the past, the confirmation committee has simply reviewed the appointee's resume and relied upon personal recommendations; it has rarely interviewed nominees or held public hearings. However, because of a change in senate rules, the committee's investigative process was much more thorough during the consideration of two recent appointees to the supreme court. According to the new rules, every nominee must be interviewed, and the committee has access to all written materials used by the governor in making the appointment. The committee may also solicit public comments that will not be shared with appointees.