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State of Wisconsin

Methods of Judicial Selection: Wisconsin

Selection of Judges

Number of Judgeships
Supreme Court: 7
Court of Appeals: 16
Circuit Court: 241
Number of Districts/Circuits
Supreme Court: --
Court of Appeals: 4
Circuit Court: 69
Geographic Basis for Selection
Supreme Court: statewide
Court of Appeals: district
Circuit Court: circuit
Method of Selection (full term)
Supreme Court: nonpartisan election*
Court of Appeals: nonpartisan election*
Circuit Court: nonpartisan election*
Length of Term
Supreme Court: 10 yrs
Court of Appeals: 6 yrs
Circuit Court: 6 yrs
Method of Retention
Supreme Court: reelection
Court of Appeals: reelection
Circuit Court: reelection
Length of Subsequent Terms
Supreme Court: 10 yrs
Court of Appeals: 6 yrs
Circuit Court: 6 yrs
Method of Filling Interim Vacancies
Supreme Court: gubernatorial appointment**
Court of Appeals: gubernatorial appointment**
Circuit Court: gubernatorial appointment**
When Interim Judges Stand for Election/Appointment
Supreme Court: next spring in which no other justice is to be elected (if the vacancy occurs between Dec. 1 and the spring election, appointees stand for election in the next spring election)***
Court of Appeals: next spring election in which no other judge from that district is to be elected (if the vacancy occurs between Dec. 1 and the spring election, appointees stand for election in the next spring)***
Circuit Court: next spring election (if the vacancy occurs between Dec. 1 and the spring election, appointees stand for election in the next spring election)***
Selection of Chief Judge/Justice
Supreme Court: Court selection
Court of Appeals: supreme court appoints
Circuit Court: supreme court appoints
Term of Office for Chief Judge/Justice
Supreme Court: 2 years
Court of Appeals: 3 yrs
Circuit Court: 2 yrs
Qualifications
Supreme Court: qualified elector of the state; licensed to practice law in state 5 yrs****
Court of Appeals: qualified elector of the state; licensed to practice law in state 5 yrs****
Circuit Court: qualified elector of circuit; licensed to practice law in state 5 yrs****

Selection and retention methods and term lengths are prescribed by Article VII of the Wisconsin Constitution

*If there are more than two candidates for a judicial position, a nonpartisan primary election is held. The top two vote getters in the primary compete in the general election.

**Governor Walker uses an advisory council on judicial selection to screen applicants for interim judicial vacancies and recommend three to five qualified candidates. The governor is not bound by the council's recommendations. 

***If the vacancy occurs between December 1 and the spring election, appointees stand for election in the next spring election.

****The Wisconsin Constitution authorizes the legislature to impose a mandatory retirement age of no less than 70. To date it has not been enacted by statute.