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Archive for the 'Judicial Selection Reform' Category

Will Tennessee Continue to Appoint Judges?


On November 4th, Tennesseans will have the opportunity to vote on Amendment 2, which would allow the governor to continue to appoint appellate court judges but would also include a confirmation process by the Legislature. Voters would still participate through retention elections following the appointments. Amendment 2 would integrate the process into the state Constitution rather than state statute as it is presently.

Groups have organized on both sides of the amendment. The Vote Yes on 2 campaign had raised more than $400,000 by July and spent about $50,000, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. The Vote No on 2 campaign was organized shortly before the July reporting deadline and had not raised any funds by that time. A spokesman said that the fundraising has no hope of reaching that of the Vote Yes on 2 campaign.

Critics of Amendment 2 cite the recent decision to replace Democratic Attorney General Bob Cooper with Republican Herbert Slatery as an example of partisanship under the current system, reported another Knoxville News Sentinel article. However, proponents of the amendment have cited the unanimity of the Supreme Court on Slatery’s selection to be an example of bipartisanship. Amendment 2 is supported by all appellate and Supreme Court justices. “It’s the best of both worlds,” said Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby, “a balancing of accountability and independence.”

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Pros and Cons of TN Constitutional Amendment Debated

Yeson2_logo2Advocates for a proposed constitutional amendment in Tennessee say that without it, special interest groups from outside the Volunteer State could pour money into judicial elections and influence state judges and courts.

The proposal, facing voters in November, would affect 29 appeals court and state Supreme Court judges. ”If each of those 29 judges has to run in statewide, contested elections, that is going to flood the state with lots of money for negative ads,” said John Crisp of the Vote Yes on 2 campaign, according to a Courthouse News Service article about the ballot item.

10299085_761141940583566_5241205864264201613_nOpponents contend the measure would steal away voters’ rights by effectively removing their right to elect any of the 29 judges. “The Tennessee constitution gives the citizens of the state the right to judge the judges who judge us,” Vote No on 2 spokesman John Avery Emison said. “[Amendment 2 is] a step away from self-government.” Read more

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Tennessee NAACP Favors Amendment to Change Judicial Selection

The Tennessee Conference of the NAACP has endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the way appellate judges are chosen.

home_02“We want fair and impartial judges who will protect the rights of all people, not just the special interests with their campaign contributions,” said Gloria Sweet-Love, president of the Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP, according to a press release by a pro-Amendment 2 group that was carried by a Knoxville News Sentinel blog. “We encourage all of our members to support Amendment 2.”

When retired Tennessee Justice George H. Brown, Jr., addressed the  NAACP’s State Convention recently in Nashville, he said, “Amendment 2 will help ensure that we continue to have a judiciary that represents all of Tennessee.” Read more

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Editorial: Weigh Reform of ‘Ugly’ WI Supreme Court Elections

630px-Seal_of_WisconsinOne of the latest local editorial boards to declare that there’s something hugely wrong with judicial elections works at the Beloit Daily News in Wisconsin.

When it published an editorial about reforms for the public to consider, the editorial board spotlighted merit selection of judges. Here is what the editorial said, under the headline “Do the people want to take charge?”

“APPOINT THE STATE’S top judges, identified and selected by a merit commission, rather than electing them. The ugly Wisconsin Supreme Court elections — dominated by partisan interests and tainted by big money — have become an embarrassment, and worse. Decisions of law are colored by partisan politics, over time eroding the people’s trust in the judicial branch. Without a doubt, people want the courts to be a fair referee, not just another partisan branch of government.” Read more

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Foes of TN Amendment 2 Seek to Make Case Against It

10299085_761141940583566_5241205864264201613_nSo far, the opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way Tennessee appellate judges are chosen don’t have the profile or big names that supporters have. But the opponents still are working to defeat the proposal.

“Legislators among leaders of ‘Vote No on 2′ campaign,” stated the headline for a Knoxville News Sentinel blog post. The post carried a news release from the group that listed its leaders and said why it expects voters to reject the proposal: “People don’t want to give up their right to vote.” Read more

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Bipartisan Push for Constitutional Amendment in Tennessee

Haslam (left) and Bredesen (right) in WBIR image

Haslam (left) and Bredesen (right) in WBIR image

In a joint Knoxville appearance, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee and former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen made a bipartisan pitch for voters to approve a ballot item that would change the way appeals judges are selected.

According to a WBIR report, the duo cautioned that defeat of the proposal could open the door to out-of-state special interest groups pouring money into efforts to “buy” state courts and influence judicial selection.

“I think as a practical matter we will just get much better judges, a much better judicial process in the state” with passage of the amendment, Bredesen said. Read more

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Editorial: Time to Weigh Reform of Judicial Elections in Florida

Florida_quarter,_reverse_side,_2004“Filling the bench” is becoming a campaign issue in Florida, says a Miami Herald editorial that urges consideration of major reform.

The editorial touches on questions raised about the records of both gubernatorial candidates, Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist, before favoring an appointive system for choosing lower-court judges:

“The current system means anyone can challenge a sitting county or circuit judge — even if they’ve only practiced law for a handful of years. Running for the bench is the same as running for dog catcher.

“It’s time to consider making judicial candidates stop saying ‘Vote for me!’ and let governors make the appointments. Removing the politics first, however, will be the hard part of any overhaul.” Read more

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More Debate Over Changing Way Tennessee Judges are Picked

The debate is warming up over a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way appellate judges are selected in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association and the Tennessee State Lodge of  Fraternal Order of Police have urged Tennesseans to vote “yes” on the ballot item in November, according to a Crossville Chronicle article, which appeared to reprint a news release.

“Amendment 2 brings new clarity and accountability to the process of selecting Tennessee’s Supreme Court and appellate court judges,” said FOP President Johnny Crumby. “We need the best judges, not the best politicians. Amendment 2 will help ensure that we get the fair and impartial judges that Tennesseans want and need.” Read more

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Online Ad Urges ‘Yes’ Vote on Changing TN Judicial Selection

Image from online ad

Image from online ad

A new online ad was rolled out by supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way appellate judges are selected in Tennessee. It is narrated by former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, a Republican.

The ad says the constitutional amendment would “prevent outsiders from buying our courts” and “protect our vote” on whether appellate judges get another term. It spotlights support for the proposal from Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, and former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat. It comes as debate over the proposal is heating up.

The Nashville Post reported that state Sen. Mark Norris, the Republican majority leader, said attacks on three Tennessee Supreme Court justices in advance of last month’s retention election could hurt prospects for the amendment when voters go to the polls. In The Tennessean, an op-ed by George Scoville asked, “Would the Founding Fathers Support Amendment 2?” Read more

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Top Tennessee Judge: No Politics When Attorney General is Named

justice_leeSharon Lee, the new Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice, said there will be no partisan politics involved when the court selects a new state attorney general.

Before Justice Lee and two colleagues were retained in a hard-fought election last month, their foes made a central issue of the court’s earlier selection of Bob Cooper as attorney general, contending he was anti-business.

“I think the voters rejected partisan politics in our judiciary with the election,” Justice Lee said this week, according to a blog of the Knoxville News Sentinel. ”And they certainly will not have any place in the selection of the attorney general, or how we do the rest of our jobs.” The court will conduct public interviews of eight candidates for attorney general next week. Read more

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