Gavel Grab

Tennessee Bar Pushes Extension of Judicial Merit Selection

Extending Tennessee’s existing merit selection system for picking judges would “provide needed stability and certainty,” the state bar president said as the legislature eyes a major debate next year over possibly scrapping that system.

“Since the Tennessee Constitution cannot be amended before the August 2014 election of all judges in Tennessee, the General Assembly should immediately move to extend the Tennessee Plan,”  Tennessee Bar Association president Danny Van Horn said about a recent proposal for a system with similarities to federal judicial appointments.

“Extending the plan, which was revamped in 2009 and which has been held constitutional by every court which has looked at it, will provide needed stability and certainty to the system,” Horn said, according to a Memphis Daily News article.  “In the meantime, an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution could firmly ensconce merit selection, performance evaluation and retention elections and avoid the complications of the faux-federal system.”

Critics of merit selection want to replace it with contested elections for all appeals judges. Another proposal would change the constitution to reflect how the current selection process works. The Tennessee Constitution requires that judges “shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State,” but the current system has been upheld by two state courts and one federal court. To learn more about the upcoming debate, check out Gavel Grab.

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