Group to consider updates to judicial conduct rules

TBA President Gail Vaughn Ashworth has appointed a task force to study Tennessee's judicial ethics rules and consider whether revisions are needed. The Task Force on Judicial Conduct Rules will be chaired by Chattanooga lawyer T. Maxfield Bahner. Other members are reporter Sarah Y. Sheppeard, Albert C. Harvey, Buck Lewis, Barbara Mendel Mayden, Lucian Pera, and judges Jerri S. Bryant, Angelita Dalton, Thomas R. Frierson II, Alan E. Glenn, Walter C. Kurtz, Joe G. Riley and Thomas G. Stovall. TBA staff members are Allan Ramsaur and Jenny Jones. The task force is to submit its report with any recommendations to the TBA Board of Governors, which will consider the findings at its June 2010 meeting.

Tennessee's judicial ethics rules were last amended in 1997, and that revision was broadly based on the 1990 American Bar Association Model Code of Judicial Conduct. The Tennessee Supreme Court amended the judicial speech provisions of the code in 2005, but those amendments were limited to the comments. The 2007 revisions to the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct are significant and revisions to the Model Code are now under consideration in 35 jurisdictions. In addition to considering whether the Tennessee Code of Judicial Conduct -- contained in Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10 -- should be amended, the task force is to consider (1) any needed procedural reforms for how motions to disqualify or recuse judges are handled, and (2) any needed revisions of statutory provisions that relate, directly or indirectly, to judicial ethics.