Why stick with a merit-based system for selecting high-level judges in Tennessee?
Because it “instills trust,” contends Dwight Lewis in a Tennesseean commentary defending the so-called “Tennessee Plan” from those who are talking about replacing it with judicial elections.
Lewis tackles the critics with excerpts from the thinking of the judiciary, the executive branch and a bar leader.
He quotes retired state Supreme Court Justice Adolpho A. Birch as saying the existing plan “provides a quality judiciary.”
He portrays judicial elections as presenting a “recipe for conflicts of interest” and quotes newly inaugurated Gov. Bill Haslam as backing the current system:
“As somebody who has spent two years going across the state campaigning, I’m just not sure we want our Supreme Court judges to do that. That being said, I do think we need to make sure we have a great, open and transparent process for nominating those folks so we can make sure we have great representation there.”
And Lewis paraphrases Allan Ramsaur, executive director of the Tennessee Bar Association, as saying that thanks to merit selection, a solid majority of Tennessee citizens have confidence in their courts. Lewis concludes:
“The Tennessee Plan provides for a fair and honest judiciary, while the popular election of judges probably would cause Tennesseans to ask: How much is a state Supreme Court justice worth? $5 million? $7 million?”
To learn more about debate over the Tennessee Plan, check out these earlier Gavel Grab posts.