There are nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court who serve lifetime terms. Justice Elena Kagan was the last Supreme Court justice appointed to the bench back in August 2010 by President Barack Obama. The longest serving justice is Justice Anthony Kennedy, who took his seat in 1988, and was nominated by President Ronald Reagan. The newest appointed justice will become the 113th to serve on our nation’s Supreme Court.
The Washington Post recently published a helpful infographic that explains the path of U.S. Supreme Court appointments.
The president also nominates candidates for federal judgeships subject to the Senate’s approval. As of 2014, there are more than 625 active judges who serve federal district courts and nearly 175 judges who serve federal courts of appeals. All federal judges enjoy lifetime terms.
In contrast, the seven justices on Ohio’s highest court are elected in statewide elections. We are not appointed, and we serve six-year terms before standing for re-election. The Ohio governor can appoint a justice for vacancies that occur between elections, such as for a retirement or death. In the rare instance that a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court must be appointed, the governor makes the decision alone – it doesn’t have to be confirmed by the Ohio General Assembly. The same holds true for other state courts. If a judge leaves in the middle of a term, the governor appoints someone to fill the vacancy until voters decide who will retain the seat in the next election.
Only 21 states have elections, both partisan and nonpartisan. Ohio has nonpartisan general elections. In 12 states, the justices are appointed for life and in the remaining 17 states the justices are elected after an initial appointment.
Voters choose two Ohio Supreme Court justices at the general election in even-numbered years. In the year when the chief justice runs, voters pick three members of the Court. A person must be an attorney with at least six years of experience in the practice of law to be elected or appointed to the Court.
Three justices are up for election this year. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor has no opponent, and Justice Paul E. Pfeifer and I are no longer eligible to seek re-election due to age restrictions, so our Court will welcome two new members in 2017.
Now we will have to wait and see who will become the next U.S. Supreme Court justice and who will become the new justices on our state’s Supreme Court.
Sources: American Bar Association and United States Courts