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Judicial Merit Selection: Institutional Design and Performance for State Courts, Greg Goelzhauser

Reviewed by Raymond V. Carman Jr.

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Methods used by states to staff their courts have evolved greatly. Early state constitutions implemented methods of elite selection. Then, accepting Jacksonian calls for democratization, most states adopted partisan elections. Next, embracing Progressive Era reforms, many states implemented nonpartisan elections. Finally, motivated by popular discontent with electing judges, some states began to experiment with a new form of selection in the mid-1900s—merit selection. Under merit selection, judicial vacancies are filled using a two-stage process: first, a nominating commission reviews applications to compile a list of acceptable candidates; then, the governor makes an appointment from the nominating commission’s list. Proponents have long argued that merit selection deemphasizes politics, which results in a more qualified and diverse bench. Opponents contend that merit selection is no less political and results in a bench no more qualified or diverse.

Judicial Merit Selection presents an attempt to evaluate the efficacy of this relatively new form of judicial selection. Chapter 2 provides a first-of-its-kind systematic account of a merit selection from vacancy announcement to gubernatorial appointment. As Greg Goelzhauser reports on a 2016 Arizona Court of Appeals vacancy, political

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