A First Look at 2024 State Supreme Court Contests
A Commentary By Carah Ong Whaley
KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE
— The fate of Wisconsin’s state supreme court will be decided next month.
— About two-thirds of the states will have supreme court elections next year.
— Key states with supreme court elections to watch in 2024 include Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, and Ohio.
The 2024 high court races
A high-stakes state supreme court election that will determine the ideological control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is set to take place on April 4. The contest between liberal judge Janet Protasiewicz and conservative candidate Daniel Kelly, who was involved in the state GOP’s “fake elector” scheme after the 2020 presidential election, is on track to become the most expensive judicial race in history. Another key swing state, Pennsylvania, also has a state supreme court race this year to fill a currently-vacant seat previously held by late Chief Justice Max Baer, a Democrat. Democrats still have a 4-2 edge on the court, so they would retain the majority even if Republicans win the seat later this year.
With growing attention being given to the role of state courts in determining political representation and other key issues, we look ahead to state supreme court elections in 2024, outlining who is up for election and the issues at stake in each state. Thirty-two states will hold supreme court elections in 2024, with 73 seats currently up for election. There are basically 3 types of judicial elections: partisan, ostensibly nonpartisan, and retention elections. Table 1 shows a breakdown of the states by election type and number of seats up for election in 2024, and Map 1 shows where elections will be occurring by the current partisan lean of state supreme courts.
Table 1: 2024 state supreme court elections by type and state
Map 1: 2024 Supreme Court Elections by Current Partisan Lean
Click on the map to scroll over states and view characteristics by state, including: election method; partisan lean of state; incumbent win rates (2008-2022); seats up for election in 2024; number of seats on court; mandatory retirement; and term length.
The stakes of elections are not evenly distributed, partly attributable to the structure of judicial elections in states. For instance, it is rare for a state supreme court justice facing a retention election to be defeated. States with partisan or ostensibly nonpartisan elections have the potential for higher stakes contests with increased politicization of judicial races and rulings. We also expect high levels of spending in the 2024 elections, at least on par with 2020 election spending, in which nearly $43 million was spent on supreme court elections in states with nonpartisan elections and over $54 million was spent in states with partisan elections. We charted spending in partisan and nonpartisan elections over the last two decades.
What follows is a summary of supreme court elections in each state by election type. In 2024, we suggest paying close attention to supreme court races in Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, and Ohio.
One of the 5 seats up for election is that of Chief Justice Tom Parker, who has aged out of running again under an Alabama law that bars judges over 70 from running. Associate Justice Sarah Stewart, who is up for reelection in 2024, announced she will seek the Republican Party’s nomination for chief justice. No other candidate has announced a bid for chief justice, though others are expected to join the race. Following Stewart’s announcement, Criminal Appeals Judge Chris McCool announced a run for Stewart’s current position. Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth has endorsed McCool for the open seat. Manufacture Alabama and the Alabama Farmers Federation PAC have endorsed 3 other incumbents in their reelection bid: Supreme Court Justices Jay Mitchell, Tommy Bryan, and Will Sellers.
The current balance of the court is 5 Democrats and 2 Republicans, as Democrats won 2 key races last year to maintain control. The outcome of the 2024 election will not alter the partisan balance of the court, but the justices don’t always vote along party lines on issues. This year, the state supreme court will likely take up a state-level challenge to Illinois’s gun ban, which is likely to draw attention to the 2024 elections. One justice from each party is up for election in 2024: Joy V. Cunningham (D) and Lisa Holder White (R). Both are Black women who were appointed to fill vacancies in 2022.
Louisiana has partisan Supreme Court elections, which trace back to the state’s 1913 constitution (before this, justices were appointed). Justices serve a term of 10 years, and unlike other states — like Texas where the chief justice is elected separately — in Louisiana, the judge with the longest term on the court serves as chief justice. The court is currently composed of 5 Republican justices as well as a Democrat and an Independent.
Republican Scott Crichton is up for reelection in 2024; he won in an unopposed election in 2014. It remains to be seen if Crichton will face any challengers, but the partisan control of the court will not change even if he loses.
The biggest recent news related to the Louisiana supreme court is that Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry, who is running for governor, is seeking to end a 1992 federal court agreement that led to the state’s first Black justice being elected to Louisiana’s once all-white Supreme Court. Landry argues that federal oversight of the state’s supreme court is no longer needed, while voting rights advocates and the U.S. Justice Department argue it still is.
Ever wonder where the principle of judicial review originated? If you thought it was Marbury v. Madison, think again. It actually originated in North Carolina in 1787 in Bayard v. Singleton and was later adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court is currently composed of 5 Republicans (including the chief justice) and 2 Democrats. In a high-stakes election with millions poured in from outside groups, Republicans reclaimed a majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court in 2022 with the elections of Richard Dietz and Trey Allen, both of whom won seats previously held by Democrats. (Republicans also flipped 2 seats in 2020, so the court has gone from 6-1 Democratic to 5-2 Republican over the course of the last 2 election cycles.) For 2018, the GOP-led state legislature passed a law that made judicial elections partisan — in this light red state, the addition of party labels likely aided their candidates. The Republican victories were especially notable because they should help Republicans redraw the state’s congressional map in the party’s favor after yearslong battles between the Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic state supreme court.
North Carolina’s supreme court, with its new Republican majority, has already agreed to rehear a case asking it to overturn gerrymandering rulings the court issued in 2022 (oral arguments were held on Tuesday). One case, NC NAACP v. Moore, took 4 years to work its way through the state supreme court process and was decided by a 4-3 vote along party lines. The court ruled that a racially gerrymandered legislature cannot propose amendments to the North Carolina Constitution. The case stemmed from a U.S. District Court decision in 2016, which said that North Carolina’s state district maps were illegally racially gerrymandered. It is also the case that has led to Moore v. Harper, in which the U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to decide whether the North Carolina Supreme Court has the power to strike down the legislature’s illegally gerrymandered congressional map for violating the North Carolina Constitution. Republican legislators argue under an interpretation of the U.S. Constitution known as the “independent state legislature theory” that state courts and the state constitution are powerless in matters relating to federal elections. The U.S. Supreme Court recently hinted that it might not render a decision after control of the North Carolina Supreme Court shifted to a Republican majority.
The Republican-majority supreme court could potentially take up reproductive rights cases, allowing for stronger restrictions on abortion. Currently, abortion access is legal in North Carolina through 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Democratic Justice Michael Morgan is up for reelection in 2024 — he was first elected back in 2016, back when judicial races were nonpartisan. In a contest rife with tensions over racial gerrymandering, Morgan defeated a 16-year conservative incumbent, Justice Robert H. Edmunds Jr. Morgan’s win changed the partisan balance to a Democratic majority, and more than $5.5 million was spent on the race, making it the most expensive at the time. Morgan was previously elected twice to North Carolina’s Superior Court. As of now, there are no challengers for 2024, but the contest is worth watching to see whether Democrats can retain this seat on the state’s high court.
Until June 2021, judicial elections in Ohio were ostensibly nonpartisan. Parties had nominated candidates in primary elections, but party designations for the candidates were not permitted on the general election ballot. In response to the 2020 election of Democratic Justice Jennifer Brunner, which cut the Republican majority to 4-3, Ohio Republicans passed a law making general elections partisan, with party labels on the ballot.
Last year saw a highly contested election with the partisan balance of the court at stake. Republicans retained their majority, winning all 3 races on the ballot. Retiring Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a moderate Republican, was replaced by the more conservative Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy. O’Connor and the court’s 3 Democrats formed majorities that limited Republican gerrymandering efforts; the new court, still 4-3 Republican, likely will be more amenable to GOP redistricting plans.
In 2024, 2 Democrats and a Republican will stand for reelection, with potential for highly contested elections.
Justice Joe Deters was appointed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine to replace Kennedy and will stand for election in 2024. Deters is known for his tough-on-crime stance and has a long history of service in the criminal legal system, including as the Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney and as clerk of courts for Hamilton County (Cincinnati). He was also twice elected to serve as the Buckeye State’s treasurer. With the success Deters has had in previous elections and in office, it’s difficult to see him losing. In the 2020 Hamilton County prosecutor election, Deters won crossover support and was reelected despite the once-Republican county continuing to shift toward Democrats at the presidential level.
Justice Michael P. Donnelly was elected to the Ohio Supreme Court in 2018, defeating Republican Judge Craig Baldwin by 61% to 39%. Justice Melody J. Stewart was also elected to the Ohio Supreme Court in 2018, in a challenge against appointed incumbent Justice Mary DeGenaro. She was the first Black woman elected to the Ohio Supreme Court. Both are Democrats.
All 9 sitting justices on the court are Republicans, 5 of whom were appointed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. Three of the 9 justices will be up for reelection in 2024.
Justice Jimmy Blacklock was appointed by Abbott in 2018. That year, Blacklock won election over Democratic challenger Steven Kirkland, a district court judge in Harris County (Houston), with 53.2% in a relatively high-turnout statewide election.
Justice John Devine was first elected to the Texas Supreme Court in 2012. Devine won 34.2% of the vote in the Republican primary and then faced off against incumbent Republican Justice David Medina in a runoff, garnering 53.3%. He was then elected without a Democratic Party opponent in the general election. In 2018, Devine was reelected with 53.7% of the vote.
Abbott appointed Jane Bland to the supreme court in 2019. She ran for election in 2020 to serve the remainder of Justice Jeff Brown’s term, garnering 55.2% of the vote against Democratic challenger Kathy Cheng. Previously, Bland served for 6 years as a state district judge in Houston. Along with many other Republican incumbents on the court (located in Democratic-trending Harris County), she lost her reelection bid in 2018, and returned to private practice.
In 2022, conservative and Republican groups spent heavily in unsuccessful efforts to reshape the supreme court in Arkansas. Justice Robin Wynne defeated Chris Carnahan, a conservative challenger funded by Republican groups and business interests. The Arkansas supreme court has upheld some COVID-19 mandates and signed off on progressive ballot measures.
Chief Justice John Dan Kemp Jr. is 1 of 2 justices up for election in 2024. In 2016, Kemp challenged sitting Justice Courtney Hudson for the chief justice position and won.
The other justice up for reelection is Shawn Womack, who formerly served as a circuit court judge for the 14th Judicial District and as a Republican state legislator.
Eight out of the 9 current Georgia Supreme Court justices were initially appointed by a Republican governor. Four justices are up for election in 2024.
Chief Justice Michael P. Boggs and Presiding Justice Nels S.D. Peterson were initially appointed by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal after the court was expanded from 7 to 9 justices in 2017. Both ran for election unopposed in 2018 and won. Boggs was previously a judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals. In 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Boggs to serve a U.S. District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. That nomination failed because he could not win support from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee owing to his conservative positions, including his votes in the Georgia state legislature to retain Confederate insignia in the state flag, to restrict abortion, and to ban same-sex marriage. Peterson, a member of the conservative Federalist Society, previously served as former Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue’s executive counsel and as Solicitor General of Georgia under the direction of then-Attorney General Sam Olens (R).
John J. Ellington was elected to the Georgia Supreme Court, unopposed, in 2018.
Andrew Pinson was appointed to the supreme court by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022, who had previously appointed him to the Georgia Court of Appeals. He formerly clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Four out of the 5 currently serving justices were initially appointed by a Republican governor. G. Richard Bevan ran unopposed and won election in 2018, and is up for election in 2024. In 2021 he became chief justice of the court. Previously, Bevan ran unopposed, was elected and served as a district court judge. In January 2023, Bevan asked state lawmakers to give raises to judges and protect their security amid a “dangerous” political climate.
Chief Justice Laurance B. VanMeter is up for reelection in 2024. VanMeter won the 2016 election to the Supreme Court with 74%. VanMeter is a member of the Federalist Society. Previously, he served as a district court judge and practiced private law.
Conservative groups and the Republican Party have set their sights on changing the make-up of the state supreme court, especially since Republicans took control of the state legislature in 2016. The Kentucky Republican Party has proposed changes to the state’s judicial system, including ending judicial elections. In 2019, state Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer went so far as to say justices “need to be reined in.” Last month, the court allowed state abortion bans to remain in place, a decision that anti-abortion groups applauded, but left the door open for future challenges. The court’s decision came despite the fact that Kentucky voters rejected a ballot measure in November that would have amended the state constitution to say there is no right to abortion.
Michigan has a unique judicial selection system. Candidates are nominated by political parties and then all run together on the same ballot without party labels, with the top 2 finishers winning. Last year, 2 incumbents (a Democrat and a Republican) won reelection to the court.
The court is currently composed of 4 Democratic justices and 3 Republicans, which will make the 2024 elections in which incumbents David Viviano (R) and Kyra Harris Bolden (D) are running, one to watch closely. A change in partisan control of the court could also have implications for election administration. In 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to the state’s election results. However, Republican justices dissented from some of the decisions.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) appointed Bolden to the state Supreme Court in November 2022. She was a candidate in 2022 but came in third behind incumbents Richard Bernstein (D) and Brian Zahra (R). She is the first Black woman to serve on Michigan’s Supreme Court.
Former Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Viviano in 2013, and he won a 2014 election. Viviano dissented from a 2022 Michigan Supreme Court decision ordering the Board of State Canvassers to allow a ballot proposition, “Reproductive Rights for All,” that would amend the Michigan Constitution to provide for a right to abortion before viability with limitations afterwards. Voters approved the proposition in the November 2022 elections with 56.7% voting yes.
The court is composed of 7 justices, and the current balance of the court is 5-2 Democratic (although the elections themselves are technically nonpartisan). In 2024, 4 justices will be up for reelection, including Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea and Barry Anderson, both initially appointed by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), and Margaret Chutich and Anne McKeig, both initially appointed by former Gov. Mark Dayton (D).
Gildea was not challenged for reelection as chief justice in 2018. In 2012, she defeated challenger Dan Griffith with 60% of the vote and garnered 55% of the vote to win over Deborah Hedlund in 2008.
Anderson has been unopposed in 2 of the last 3 elections, and defeated challenger Dean Barkley in the 2012 general election, winning 58.9% of the vote. Anderson is a former member of the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Prior to serving on the supreme court, McKeig was a family court judge of the Minnesota Fourth District Court in Hennepin County, appointed by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2008. McKeig was not challenged in a 2018 election. She is the first Native American justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court and the first woman Native American on any state supreme court.
In 2018, Chutich won with 55.9% of the vote — Dayton had previously appointed her to the court in 2016. Chutich is the first openly gay justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Prior to serving on the supreme court, Chutich was also appointed by Dayton and served as a judge at-large on the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Four of the 9 sitting justices are up for reelection in 2024, including Presiding Justice James W. Kitchens and Robert P. Chamberlin, both previously elected to court seats, and James D. Maxwell II and Dawn H. Beam, both initially appointed to the court by former Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.
Kitchens was elected to the supreme court in 2008, winning 53.4% of the vote and defeating sitting Chief Justice James W. Smith. He was reelected in 2016 with 53.5% of the vote, defeating challenger T. Kenneth Griffis (who was later appointed to the court by Bryant).
Chamberlin was first elected to the supreme court in 2016 in a runoff election with 55% of the vote. He previously was a municipal judge and prosecutor.
Maxwell was initially appointed to the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2015 and then elected unchallenged to a full 8-year term in November 2016. He previously served on the Mississippi Court of Appeals, appointed to that court in 2009 by former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, and twice elected unopposed.
Beam was initially appointed to the court in 2015 and then elected to a full 8-year term in November 2016 after garnering 67.3% of the vote in a contest against challenger Michael Shareef. Prior to serving on the supreme court, Beam was a judge for the 10th Chancery District in Mississippi, a county prosecutor and practiced private law for over a decade.
This year, the Republican-dominated Mississippi House of Representatives passed a bill to create a separate, unelected court system in the city of Jackson that would fall outside the purview of the city’s voters, 80% of whom are Black. The bill, which local leaders have compared to apartheid-era laws and described as unconstitutional, would also expand a separate capitol police force, overseen by state authorities. The new court district would feature two judges directly appointed by Mississippi’s supreme court chief justice, Michael K. Randolph. Amendments to require the judges to be residents of the Jackson area and to compel elections for the positions failed. The revised Senate version of the bill would allow the Mississippi Supreme Court chief justice to appoint one judge to work within the existing Hinds County Court system through December 2026.
Chief Justice Mike McGrath will be up for reelection in 2024. He was elected as chief justice in 2008 with 75.1% of the vote and was reelected in 2016 with 81.8% of the vote. Prior to his election to the Supreme Court, McGrath served as the attorney general of Montana as a Democrat.
Also on the ballot in 2024 will be Justice Dirk Sandefur. He was backed by Democratic groups and elected to an open seat on the supreme court in 2016 with 56.1% of the vote in a highly contested race against law professor Kristen Juras. The election was the most expensive judicial contest in the state’s history, totaling some $1.8 million in spending, with half of the spending coming from outside groups, the majority of which spent in support of Sandefur. Prior to his election to the supreme court, Sandefur was a district judge.
Yearslong conflict between Republican lawmakers and the judiciary system has led to proposals in the state legislature to reshape the court and its procedures. Senate Bill 311, sponsored by Republican Senator Barry Usher, would eliminate 2 supreme court justices, and in one scenario laid out in the bill, eliminate the 2024 election for Sandefur’s seat. If passed, the bill could also create a constitutional conflict because the constitution only discusses increasing seats on the court, while saying nothing about shrinking them.
In 2024, 3 justices are up for reelection. Chief Justice Lidia S. Stiglich was appointed by former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval in 2016. Previously Stiglich served as district court judge of the Second Judicial District Court in Nevada. She is one of 11 openly LGBT justices currently serving in state supreme courts. In the 2018 election, Stiglich defeated challenger Mathew Harter in the general election with 46.6% of the vote.
Elissa F. Cadish won a seat on the Nevada Supreme Court in the 2018 election, defeating challenger Jerome T. Tao with 45.3% of the vote. Previously, Cadish was a district court judge. In 2012, President Barack Obama nominated Cadish to be a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Nevada. However, former Republican Nevada Sen. Dean Heller blocked her nomination over a statement Cadish made on the right to bear arms. Eventually, Cadish requested President Obama to withdraw her nomination.
Patricia Lee was appointed by former Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in 2022. Lee is the first Black woman and the first Asian American to serve on the Nevada Supreme Court.
Four current justices were appointed by Republican governors, and 1 was elected in a nonpartisan election. Appointed by Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, Justice Douglas Bahr will stand for election in 2024 to fill the remainder of the unexpired term.
All 7 justices on the court were appointed by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown. Chief Justice Meagan Flynn will be up for reelection in 2024. She was initially appointed in 2017 and won reelection to the Oregon Supreme Court outright in the primary in 2018. Previously, Flynn served on the Court of Appeals.
Rebecca Duncan will be up for reelection in 2024. She was initially appointed in 2017 and won reelection to the Oregon Supreme Court outright in the primary in 2018. Previously, Duncan served on the Court of Appeals.
Justice Bronson James was appointed in 2022 and will stand for election in 2024. Previously, James was appointed by Brown and then elected in 2018 to serve on the Oregon Court of Appeals.
Justice Stephen Bushong was appointed in 2022 and will stand for election in 2024. Previously, Bushong was elected without opposition in 2014 and 2020 to serve on Oregon’s 4th Judicial District Circuit Court.
Additionally, new Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek will be appointing a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Adrienne Nelson, who was recently confirmed as a federal judge. So there should be a fifth state supreme court election next year, too (Kotek has not yet made the appointment).
In November 2022, Oregon voters narrowly approved Measure 114, which would require purchasers to take a safety course, pass a background check and obtain a permit before obtaining a firearm. It would also ban magazines or ammunition feeders that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. In February 2023, the Oregon Supreme Court denied a request by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to allow the measure to go into effect, allowing legal challenges to the gun-control measure to move forward, while parts of the law remain paused.
With the adoption of General Rule 37 in 2018, the Washington Supreme Court became the first court in the nation to adopt a court rule aimed at eliminating both implicit and intentional racial bias in jury selection. Over the past 5 years, the Washington Supreme Court has issued a series of rulings aimed at combating implicit racial bias using an “objective observer” test to determine whether racial bias was a factor in determining who gets to serve on juries, who gets convicted, and who wins in court. In State v. Sum, the court said the subject’s race must also be considered in determining the legality of police stops. In Henderson v. Thompson, the court said defense lawyers evoked harmful racial stereotypes when they described the Black female plaintiff as “combative.” Conservative media outlets have called the Washington Supreme Court’s efforts to address racial bias unworkable, while supporters have called them revolutionary. The California legislature has adopted the “objective observer” test for jury selection.
In 2024, 3 justices will face reelection, including Chief Justice Steven C. González. He was initially appointed in 2011 as an associate justice by former Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire. He won elections in 2012 and 2018.
Justice Susan Owens was first elected to the Washington Supreme Court in 2000 and won reelection in 2006, 2012, and 2018.
Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud was first elected to the Washington Supreme Court in 2012 and reelected in 2018.
In 2024, 2 appointed justices are up for election and, if the seats are contested, the outcome could determine the ideological balance of the court.
Justice John A. Hutchison was appointed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice to the supreme court in 2018. Hutchison fended off two challengers in the 2020 general election, winning with 39.2% of the vote. Previously, Hutchison was appointed to the bench in the Tenth Judicial Circuit by former Democratic Gov. Gaston Caperton in 1995, and he was subsequently reelected to that seat in 1996, 2000, 2008, and 2016.
Haley Bunn was appointed by Justice to the supreme court in 2022, becoming the youngest woman to serve on the court. Previously Bunn was an assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, specializing in prosecuting opioid-related cases.
In 2024, Justices Dario Borghesan and Jennifer S. Henderson will face retention elections. Only one state supreme court justice has ever lost a retention election in the state’s history.
All of the current supreme court justices were appointed by a Republican governor. Clint Bolick, who previously worked for the conservative/libertarian Goldwater Institute, and Kathryn Hackett King, who was Deputy General Counsel for former Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, will face retention elections in 2024. Bolick handily won an election retention in 2019 with 71% of the vote, despite efforts by the National Education Association to oust Bolick over his vote in a case to remove a 2018 ballot initiative proposing a tax increase on individuals making more than $250,000 that would have created a dedicated revenue stream for education. No supreme court justice has ever lost a retention election in Arizona.
All of Colorado’s current supreme court justices were appointed by a Democratic governor. There are 3 justices up for retention election in 2024. First is Chief Justice Brian Boatright, a registered Republican who previously served as a judge on the Colorado District Court from 1999 to 2011. Second is Monica Márquez, who previously worked in the Colorado Attorney General’s office. Márquez is the first Latina and first openly gay person to serve on the Colorado Supreme Court and the longest-serving of 11 openly LGBT state supreme court justices serving in the United States. Maria Berkenkotter is the third justice who will be on the ballot. She presided over the high-profile 2016 trial of Dynel Lane, who was sentenced to 100 years in prison for cutting the fetus out of another woman.
No justice has ever lost a retention election since the system was put in place in Colorado in 1966.
Renatha Francis, appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022 and the state court’s first Jamaican-American justice, will face a retention election in 2024.
All 5 of the current justices were appointed by a Republican governor. There will be 3 retention elections for Indiana Supreme Court justices in 2024.
Loretta Rush has been a member of the Indiana Supreme Court since 2012, becoming chief justice in 2014. She is Indiana’s first female chief justice and won a retention election in 2014 with 69% of the vote.
Mark S. Massa, also appointed by former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, also won a retention election in 2014 with 67.3% of the vote. Previously he served as Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Indiana and as General Counsel to Daniels.
Derek R. Molter was appointed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, and 2024 will be Molter’s first retention election. Molter previously served as a judge on the Indiana Court of Appeals from 2021 to 2022.
All 7 of the current justices Iowa Supreme Court justices were appointed by a Republican governor with assistance from a judicial nominating commission.
Justice David N. May will face a retention election in 2024 after his initial appointment by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in 2022. He was previously a state district judge.
The Iowa Supreme Court may take up women’s reproductive health before the 2024 elections. Reynolds recently asked the Supreme Court to lift an injunction to allow the state’s fetal heartbeat bill — which was signed in 2018 and prohibits elective abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — to go into effect. The Iowa Supreme Court put an injunction on the law in 2019 after ruling that abortion is a state constitutional right. However, in June 2022, the Court, in a 5-2 vote, found that the Iowa Constitution did not protect a right to an abortion, overruling its 2018 decision and upholding a law establishing a 24-hour waiting period. Reynolds filed to challenge the injunction in 2022, but a Polk County judge ruled she did not have the authority to overturn the injunction.
Six of the 7 sitting justices were appointed by former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who made a record 190 judicial appointments during his 2-term tenure, and many historic appointments among them. The other sitting justice was appointed by former Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley.
Chief Justice Matthew J. Fader and Justices Angela M. Eaves and Shirley M. Watts will have retention elections in 2024. Fader was previously appointed by Hogan to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and won a retention election to that seat with 84.4% of the vote.
Watts was the second Black woman appointed to the Maryland Supreme Court. Watts was a judge on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, and was also appointed to that position by O’Malley.
Eaves was appointed by Hogan. She made history as the state’s first Afro-Latina supreme court justice.
In 2024, the Maryland Supreme Court is expected to render a decision in a case that questions whether the state’s ban on gun possession by someone sentenced to more than 2 years in prison for a nonviolent common law crime violates a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. This comes in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s broad interpretation of the Second Amendment in 2022’s New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen.
From Dred Scott v. Sandford (slavery) to Minor v. Happersett (women’s suffrage) to Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health (euthanasia), the Missouri Supreme Court has decided a number of important cases. The court has also rendered decisions on several critical issues in recent years, including expansion of Medicaid, municipal court reform, and limits to collective bargaining for state employees.
Justice George William Draper III, appointed to the court in 2011 by former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, will face a retention election in 2024. Draper served as chief justice of the court from 2019-2021.
The Missouri Supreme Court has agreed to take a case weighing the authority of local and state health officials to issue public health orders. The court will also likely be asked to consider the constitutionality of the Second Amendment Preservation Act, which limits enforcement of federal gun laws.
In 2024, Justice Stephanie F. Stacy will face a retention election. She was initially appointed to the court by former Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts in 2015 and was retained in the 2018 election with 81% of the vote. Stacy previously served as a judge on the Third District Court. As a district court judge, Stacy ruled in November 2014 that the governor did not have the authority to approve the passage of the Keystone XL pipeline, an oil pipeline traveling from Canada to Texas, through the state of Nebraska. The state appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court, where a ruling by 4 of the 7 justices found the legislation authorizing the governor to approve the pipeline unconstitutional. However because the Nebraska Constitution requires 5 justices to concur to hold a legislative act unconstitutional, Stacy’s ruling was ultimately vacated.
Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican recently warned state lawmakers of judiciary branch staff shortages, amid rising concerns about increasing workload and limited resources of the judiciary branch in the state.
Three of 9 Oklahoma Supreme Court justices will face retention elections in 2024; all of them were initially appointed to the court by Democratic governors. Oklahoma has strong ethics restrictions for justices, who are forbidden from campaigning for reelection unless there is active opposition to their retention in office, and even if they do actively campaign for retention, they cannot personally raise funds for their campaign. Unlike most other states, there’s no mandatory retirement age for justices in Oklahoma, and 5 of the 9 sitting justices, including the 3 facing retention elections in 2024, are age 70 or older as of 2023.
Justice Noma Gurich was appointed by former Democratic Gov. Brad Henry in 2010 and is the third woman appointed to the supreme court in the state’s history. She retained her seat in the 2018 election with 61.6% of the vote.
Justice Yvonne Kauger was appointed by former Democratic Gov. George Nigh in 1984, and served as chief justice from 1997 to 1998. Kauger was retained in the 2018 supreme court election with 62.2% of the vote and in the 2012 election with 65.7%.
Justice James E. Edmondson was appointed by former Democratic Gov. Brad Henry in 2003. In 2018, he retained his seat with 59.4% of the vote, and in 2012, he retained it with 66.9% of the vote.
All 5 judges on the court were appointed by a Republican governor. Justice Scott P. Myren was appointed by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem in 2020 and Myren will face a retention election 2024. Previously, Myren served as a judge on the state’s Fifth Judicial Circuit.
All 5 judges on the Utah Supreme Court were appointed by a Republican governor. Chief Justice Matthew Durrant, first appointed by Gov. Mike Leavitt in 2000, will face a retention election in 2024. Durrant was retained to the court 77.6% of the vote in 2014.
All 5 sitting justices were appointed by Republican governors, and 3 will face retention elections in 2024.
Chief Justice Kate M. Fox will face a retention election in 2024 will reach the mandatory retirement age in 2025. Fox joined the supreme court in 2014 after being appointed by Republican Gov. Matt Mead, making her the second woman appointed to the Wyoming Supreme Court. Fox won a retention election in 2016.
Justice Keith Kautz was appointed to the supreme court in 2015 by Mead. In 2016, he won a retention election with 76.6% of the vote.
Justice John Fenn was appointed to the supreme court in 2021 by Republican Gov. Mark Gordon. Previously Fenn served as a state court judge from 2007 to 2022.
There is a potential for the Wyoming Supreme Court to take up reproductive rights. Previously, the Wyoming legislature passed a trigger ban on abortion that went into effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. The Wyoming trigger ban is currently being challenged and one of the main arguments against it is that it violates Article 1, Section 38 of the Wyoming Constitution on health care access, which was voted into law in 2012 in response to the Affordable Health Care Act. It reads: “Each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions. The parent, guardian or legal representative of any other natural person shall have the right to make healthcare decisions for that person.” Wyoming courts now may decide if abortion is defined as healthcare.
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