Gavel Grab

Tennessee Lawmakers Split on Judicial Elections

A Tennessee Senate panel has unexpectedly voted to hold contested elections for appellate judges, putting it on a collision course with House leaders, who are seeking to modify the current appointive system.

In a surprise move, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, right,  cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of a plan to begin competitive elections as early as next year. In recent weeks, Ramsey had publicly favored having the governor appoint appellate judges, and then having them face periodic retention elections.

House leaders are working toward a plan that would keep a judicial nominating commission, but would reduce the role of organized bar groups in its membership. Under their plan, the governor would choose from among a slate of candidates submitted by the commission.

The current system is slated to expire by June 30. It’s unclear what will happen if the House and Senate don’t agree on a plan. The state attorney general recently said that vacancies on the appellate and supreme courts cannot be filled until lawmakers enact a new system of judicial selection.

To learn more about Tennessee, read these earlier Gavel Grab postings.

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