The Judicial Nominating Commission is a constitutionally-created body tasked with reviewing and recommending appellate judicial nominees for gubernatorial appointment. The purpose of the commission, created in 1967 in the wake of court scandals, was to create a nonpartisan body to select judicial nominees based on merit, rather than leaving appellate judicial selection up to a general election. The Commission select candidates for appointment by the Governor to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Court of Civil Appeals, District and Associate District Judgeships, and the Workers’ Compensation Court.
The body is made up of 15 members. Six of these members are attorneys selected by the bar of each of the six congressional districts of 1967. Six more are non-attorneys appointed by the Governor. Of these six, at most three can be affiliated with the same political party, and none can have an attorney in their immediate family. These twelve members serve six-year, staggered terms. The remaining three are also non-attorneys and are appointed as follows: one by the Senate President Pro Tempore, one by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and one by the other members of the Judicial Nominating Commission. Of these three, no more than two can be affiliated with the same political party. These three “at-large” members serve two-year terms. This 15-member body then selects a chair.
Because the Judicial Nominating Commission is intended to act as a nonpartisan body, members cannot succeed themselves after their term, hold public office, hold positions of leadership in political parties, or become judicial officers until five years have passed since their term limit.
Since the mid-2010s, legislation has been introduced almost every year to change the judicial selection process, including legislation in 2022 that would have sent to a vote of the people a measure to effectively repeal the Judicial Nominating Commission and give the Governor the direct authority to name justices subject to Senate approval. The measure, SJR 43, passed both chambers but died in conference committee.