gavel and scales for judical website

Starting a Judicial Campaign? What Do You Need To Know?

Judges across the US make important decisions daily that can affect the lives of all citizens. If you are going to run for judge, you will need to campaign for the office. And before they enter the voting booth, voters need to know more about the candidates on the ballot than just a name and affiliated party.

On Election Day, how will voters know which judge to vote for?

Will they vote for a candidate just because they are listed as a Democrat or Republican? Or will they cast a vote for a name that they know and trust?

Running a campaign for judge is different than other elected positions. The laws governing elections vary from state to state. However, most state court systems are made up of two sets of trial courts. They include trial courts of limited jurisdiction (probate, family, traffic, etc.) and trial courts of general jurisdiction. Then there are intermediate appellate courts (in most states) and the highest state court. Unlike federal judges that are appointed for life, most state court judges are either elected or appointed for a certain number of years.

Which court are you running for?

attorney with gavelTrial courts of limited jurisdiction are courts that deal with only specific types of cases. They are often located in/near the county courthouse and are usually presided over by a single judge. A judge sitting without a jury hears most of the cases heard by these courts.

Examples of trial courts of limited jurisdiction include:

  • Family court: This court handles matters concerning adoption, annulments, divorce, alimony, custody, child support, etc.
  • Municipal court, handling cases involving offenses against town or city ordinances.
  • Traffic court deals with minor violations of traffic laws.
  • Juvenile court: This court usually handles cases involving delinquent children under a certain age, usually 18 or 21.
  • Small claims court handles suits between private persons that deal with a low amount of money.

The types of judges that may be elected include a municipal court judge, county court judge, magistrate, and justice of the peace. A County Court of Common Pleas usually has a General, Domestic Relations Division, Juvenile Division, and Probate Division Judges. Those may be elected positions, as well.

In many cases, a judicial candidates need political support in order to be appointed or to win an election. Judges walk a fine line during elections. While they are supposed to be apolitical, getting the position requires running a political campaign. While you may not be able express personal opinions publicly, the issues you run on will allow voters to determine your judicial temperament.

How do I run for judge?

Here are some related articles and resources on local judge elections.

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