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Comparison Of Judicial Systems

The State Judicial Selection Process

In the past years, proposals from courts, governors, legislators and citizen’s groups have tried to limit political roles in the judicial selection process. Independent judiciary is important in public trust maintenance and court system confidence. Open Society Institute in the Georgia Judicial Society has enabled it by compiling comprehensive judicial information across the U.S. nation.   

Judicial Selection Process in Georgia

            According to Yackle (2013), Georgia uses two different systems of selection of their state court judges. They are chosen through gubernatorial appointment before the commission confirms them. Nonpartisan vote is used for electing trial judges.

Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal

            Georgia Supreme Court is composed of seven judges while the Courts of Appeal is made up of 102 judges who are selected in the identical manner. The Jenny Commission formed by the attorney general performs an extensive investigation on the appointees after examination of their qualification (Curtis 2013). The commission recommends the appointees to the governor, who is not bound to the commission’s recommendations, but only answerable to Judicial Appointments Commission. Term of service of judges in supreme and courts of appeal is 12 years.


            Judges in both courts qualifications are identical. Candidates should have ten years of experience as a judge in a court of record and as a practitioner in law.

Superior Courts

            Georgia Superior Courts are made up of 1535 judges who are elected through nonpartisan elections. Candidates who receive 50% and above in June primary elections are declared winners. The term of service is 6 years (Haines 2014).


            They have the same qualification as the trial and appellate courts. Candidates should have ten years of experience as a judge in a court of record and as a practitioner in law.

Judicial Selection Process in Alabama

            State court judges are selected through judicial nonpartisan elections (Yackle et al 2013). General jurisdiction and appellate courts have differences in judicial qualification policies while term length and chief justice selections are common in re-election and interim filling vacancies. Limited jurisdiction courts have the same court functions that only differ in the primary qualifications.

Supreme Court

            Alabama Supreme Court is composed of seven judges who are elected through nonpartisan method for a period of 8 years. The candidates participate in nonpartisan primaries, which are won by the candidate who garners 50% of the total votes cast. Occurrence of ties in the candidates leads to a runoff. The sitting judges are required to go for a runoff if their term expires. The chief judge is selected by voters and serves for a period of 8 years.


To serve in Supreme Court, the judges must be:

  1. Of good moral character;
  2. At least 30 years old;
  3. Law learned;
  4. A practitioner of law for 8 years;
  5. U.S citizen or a state resident for two years.

Court of Appeal

            Alabama court of appeal is made up of twelve judges who are in office for 8-year term.  Court of appeal shares selection aspects, such as re-election, judicial qualifications, and interim vacancy regulations (Curtis et al 2013). The chief judge selection process is slightly different from the supreme courts. The chief judge in the Supreme Court appoints the chief judge of the court of appeal to work for a period of four years.

Circuit Court

            Alabama Circuit Court is comprised of 122 judges who serve for a period of six terms. Most of selection aspects are shared with the court of appeals and Supreme Court, such as interim vacancies re-election regulation. Chief Judge Selection and judicial qualification process slightly differ. The Supreme Court appointment selects the respective chief judges of all the circuit courts.


To serve in Alabama Circuit Court, judge must be:

  1. A U.S citizen;
  2. Of good moral character;
  3. 28 years of old;
  4. Law learned individual;
  5. A legal practitioner for not less than six years;
  6. A state resident for not less than 2 years.

Limited Jurisdiction Courts

            Alabama City and district court are combined into limited jurisdiction courts which vary in the selection processes of their legal practitioners (Surrency 2001).  District and city court differ in qualification procedures carried for selection and term of service. Selection process is mainly through nonpartisan elections similarly to supreme and court of appeal, but differs from the circuit courts. In the district court a judge can only serve there if he or she is a registered voter of the district while city courts do not have regulations on the place of voter’s registration.


District court

City court

Selection process:

Nonpartisan election.

Nonpartisan election.

Term of service:

Four years.

It depends on the court’s judge demand.

Re- election method:



Qualifications,  a judge must be:

A registered vote of the district should have been in law practice for at least three years and should be at least 26 years old.

Qualifications vary; one can serve in these courts provided he or she has a judicial experience for at least two years. It is also not a must to be from the city since this is affected by the migration trends of people, mainly the urban- rural migration and vice versa.


            City and district judges serve in courts located in different counties. According to Haines et al (2014), twenty- nine judges in the district courts can also serve as city court judges. There are no specified judges to serve in either of the two courts.

The Necessary Qualifications to Become A Judge


  1. In both states all courts including Supreme Court, court of appeal, superior courts, circuit courts, district and city courts require judges who are good law practitioners.
  2. In both states judges should be of good moral characteristics
  3. Supreme courts in Georgia and Alabama are both comprised of seven justices.
  4. Supreme and court of appeal judges must be 30 years old in both states.



Type of court

Qualification of judges in Georgia.

Qualification of judges in Alabama.

Supreme court

Its members should have 10 years of experience.

Its members should have 8 years of experience.

Court of appeal

Appointment of the chief judge is done by the governor after the commission confirms the qualifications.

The chief judge in the Supreme Court appoints the chief judge of the court of appeal.

Superior court

10 years of experience in law.

Not available in Alabama state. 

Circuit court

Not available. 

At least 28 years old.

District court

Not functional.

A judge must be a registered voter of the district and at least 26 years old.

City court

Not available.

A judge is allowed to serve in any city within the state.


            Georgia and Alabama states have almost the same steps of removing a judge from the office.  The general assembly, judicial code of conduct, majority membership votes, and the Supreme Court are important in disciplining a judge. Georgia and Alabama have three ways in which a judge can be removed from office for disciplinary actions.


            A judge can be removed from office in one of three common ways:

  1. Elections can be recalled and the judge voted out.
  2. Impeachment and conviction by the assembly and two thirds of the members of the senate respectively.
  3. Incapacity and judicial misconduct can lead to suspension, admonishment, censure or removal of the judge once the judicial commission on performance investigation is completed.


A judge can be removed from office in one of three common ways:

  1. Removal of a judge by the governor upon collective address from two thirds of both general assembly houses.
  2. A judge may be impeached and convicted by house representatives and two thirds of the members of the senate respectively.
  3. Disability and judicial discipline commission have the responsibility to investigate, initiate and punish the judges once they failed to follow the Alabama judicial code of conduct. On hearing, the commission usually recommends the Supreme Court to suspend the judge or voting out of the judge by the majority of vote membership. 

The Best Selection Process between the Two States

            In Georgia, selection of judges occurs in two ways; where about two thirds of their courts use gubernatorial appointment and one third use nonpartisan method. On the other side, Alabama only applies the nonpartisan election in selection of its judges. Gubernatorial appointment is headed by a governor (Herman, 2000). Nonpartisan election is the common method used for selection of judges. From my perspective, Alabama has the best way of selecting its judges since there are no party affiliations (Surrency et al 2001). Although gubernatorial appointment involves governors and other judicial stakeholders, it is liable to political interference. A governor can be convinced by another judicial participant to appoint a judge who they share kinship (Yackle et al 2013). However, nonpartisan elections method prevents all the political leaders from interfering with the selection process. Politicians are influential people in the society; hence, most of their ideas and directives are always followed by their people. This can put a negative impact when a judge is selected on the basis of political superiority. In Alabama, the ballot box has the name of the judge only since the political parties do not participate directly in the nomination and election processes. Therefore, this controls controversial issues due to political affiliations.


Selection processes applied determines the quality of the judges selected into the judiciary of a state. Judicial qualifications enable the employment of competent judges. In Georgia, the most common courts are supreme, court of appeal and superior courts while Alabama has five functional courts namely supreme, court of appeal, circuit, district, and city courts. Georgia uses gubernatorial method of appointment while Alabama uses the nonpartisan election method of selection of judges. Judges should have the essential skills for them to execute their judicial mandates. Experience gained through practicing enhances good morals, which govern all the judges’ judicial code of conduct. Judges are disciplined through general assembly, judicial code of conduct, judicial commissions, majority membership voting, the Supreme Court, and the Senate.

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