Judicial Selection

More than half the members of Gov. Bill Haslam’s hand-picked special Supreme Court have recused themselves from hearing a case to determine the constitutionality of how Tennessee selects appellate and high-court judges. Special Supreme Court Judges William Muecke Barker, George H. Brown and Robert L. Echols announced Friday they had disqualified themselves from the case […]


Two members of a state panel considering whether Tennessee’s appointment system for selecting judges is constitutional also lead a group that lobbies on the issue. George H. Brown and William M. Barker are board members of Tennesseans for Fair and Impartial Courts, which supports the current system and opposes selection at the ballot box.


Courting Conflicts

by Editorial Staff on August 2, 2012

The governor has chosen the members of a special court to determine a lawsuit in which he himself is named as a defendant. The case on appeal is John Jay Hooker’s challenge to the “Tennessee Plan” for selecting judges.


State lawmakers want the power to approve or reject appointees to Tennessee’s Supreme and Appellate Courts. Another plan to ask voters to formally adopt the state’s current practice of picking judges failed this year.


The upper chamber has voted 23-8 to revamp the current system by giving the Legislature authority to approve or reject judges the governor appoints. Last week the Senate voted 21-9 to constitutionally enshrine the current way the state empanels judges. If approved by the House, both measures would have to pass the General Assembly by two-thirds majorities next session before going before voters in 2014.

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A bill to elect judges to Tennessee’s appellate and Supreme courts failed to advance out of a House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Senate is considering two alternate judicial selection plans.


Gov. Bill Haslam says he’s open to changing the state’s method for picking judges, with nominees from the governor confirmed by the Legislature. Haslam has backed off his earlier position that the state should amend the Constitution in line with the current practice where the governor appoints judges who face retention elections.


But the constitutional amendment has a long way to go before being put to the voters. Under the bill, judges to the state’s appellate courts would be nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.