How to Become a Judge in Massachusetts

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Massachusetts judges have "lifetime" appointments. Judges are appointed by the governor and serve until they choose to resign or retire, until they die, or when they reach the mandatory retirement age, which was 70 years as of January 2011. Becoming a judge is a competitive process that involves stringent review by the Massachusetts Judicial Nomination Commission and the governor’s chief legal counsel. In addition, becoming a judge relies on there being a vacant judicial position.

To qualify, you must live in Massachusetts and be a U.S. citizen. You also must have a clean criminal record.

Practically, you must be an experienced lawyer before you become a judge. According to the Massachusetts Bar Association, being a lawyer is not a constitutional requirement for being a judge, but it states “there has not been a non-attorney appointment in modern history.” Further, many executive orders indicate that only attorneys will be considered for judicial appointments.

Gain legal experience. According to the Massachusetts State Bar, you must practice law for at least 10 years before being considered qualified to serve as a judge. Keep a record of the most significant cases you were a part of—the judicial appointment application requires you to provide that information.

Complete Parts I and II of the Judicial Nomination Commission Application. The applications are available over the Internet. You must attach a resume and writing sample to your application.

Submit your application materials to the Massachusetts Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission—composed of 21 members—reviews the applications and makes recommendations for open judicial positions. Recommendations are given to the governor, who makes the decision to appoint a judge. The recommendation lasts for 18 months. If there are no vacancies in the 18 months, candidates must reapply.