A Look at how Bankruptcy Judges are Chosen

The University of Denver is home to a group known as the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS). This group recently reported on the process by which bankruptcy judges are chosen. According to this report, the process is quite effective at selecting qualified bankruptcy judges who will remain impartial in reaching their decisions.

The selection process begins with an announcement of the vacancy so that qualified judges and attorneys may apply. Application is made through the court of appeals, and only those who meet the qualifications set forth in the announcement may apply. Bankruptcy judges must have practiced law for at least five years, be in good standing with their state’s bar association, and have good physical and mental health.

The most qualified candidates from the pool of applicants will be chosen to appear before a merit selection panel. This panel is appointed by a judicial chair, and varies in number from one circuit to the next. Panel members may be attorneys, retired judges, or even creditors and businesspeople who understand the bankruptcy process well.

Judges are appointed for a term of 14 years, and may request to be reappointed when they near the end of this term. When considering reappointment, an executive judge will seek comments from the bar association as well as members of the public. If these comments are favorable, reappointment is usually given rather than allowing the position to be opened up to others. The appointment or reappointment process can take anywhere from two to twelve months.