Gavel Grab

Judicial Ethics Panel Targeted by Tennessee Legislators

Some Tennessee legislators have warned they will take matters into their own hands if the state’s judicial discipline commission isn’t revamped.

“Judges, you better get your house in order because we’re going to do it for you if you can’t,” Republican Rep. Tony Shipley warned at a legislative hearing Tuesday, after hearing disgruntled litigants air their complaints, according to a Tennesseean article.

Gavel Grab has reported on Tea Party conservatives’  push for Tennessee legislators to take control over naming members of the discipline commission, called the Court of the Judiciary. At this week’s hearing, Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Jeff Bivins said Tennessee judges are willing to lower the standard for when a full investigation may be launched into a complaint against a judge.

The presiding judge for the Court of the Judiciary, Chris Craft, said most complaints lodged against judges are frivolous, beyond the authority of the commission or deal with legal decisions that should be taken up in appeals courts. “What we don’t do, is we don’t sweep things under the rug,” he said.

Tennessee’s legislature is eyeing a major debate next year over possibly scrapping the state’s merit selection system for picking judges (see Gavel Grab). At this week’s hearing, a legislative panel did not make a recommendation on retaining the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission or its Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, which are set to expire.

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