Leaders of Tennesseans for Judicial Accountability, a nonprofit group that has stated opposition to retaining three state Supreme Court justices in August elections, are refusing to divulge the source of its funds, according to a lengthy NewsChannel5.com report. They are citing the group’s status as a 501(c)(4) organization.
“That group may be the first hint of so-called ‘dark money’ in the battle for the state’s high court,” the lengthy investigative report noted. The three Democratic-appointed justices have been targeted for ouster by critics including Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a Republican.
“Right now, Phil, the Tennessee judiciary is not a democracy — it’s a hypocrisy,” TNJA President Grant Everett Starrett told reporter Phil Williams. He said his group is not advocating a vote for or against the three justices. When pressed by NewsChannel5.com, he said it “was a mistake” that an earlier TNJA press release had concluded regarding the justices, “Tennesseans should vote to replace them in August.”
Justice at Stake has stated about expected high spending in the Tennessee election, “It’s discouraging to hear that Tennessee’s courts are about to face the kind of special-interest tsunami that is targeting courts across the country.” JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg went on to say in the statement this month, “Retention elections are designed to keep partisan politics out of the courts—not turn judges into politicians in black robes, pressured to raise money from parties who appear before them.”
TNJA contends it is nonpartisan. NewsChannel5.com challenged that contention in an exchange of questions and answers. The exchange also touched on a mention of Justice at Stake and its concerns in a TNJA press release accusing the justices of “seven deadly Democratic sins.” Justice at Stake has a bipartisan board and its Honorary Chair is retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, the NewsChannel5.com report noted.
On Tuesday, an “Ad Hoc Committee on Judicial Accountability” that was appointed by the Tennessee Senate was scheduled to meet (see Gavel Grab). Related coverage and commentary included KnoxBlogs.com, “McNally: Attorneys’ opinion shows Supremes ‘bitten by their own dog’ on no-politicking rule”; and an op-ed by state Sen. Randy McNally in The Tennessean, “Justice is a nonpartisan goal.”