Memo Looks at Legal Issues In Judicial Campaigns

A newly released legal memorandum from General Assembly attorneys examines ethics rules governing the campaigns of the three Tennessee Supreme Court Justices seeking retention. Prepared at the request of Senate Finance Committee Chair Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, the document says that there are no legal opinions specifically addressing Tennessee’s rules on judicial political activity, but other states with similar rules have strictly interpreted the prohibition against endorsing candidates to include any activity that “creates the impression” of support, Knoxnews reports. The memo also notes that when the court adopted the revised Code of Judicial Conduct in 2012, it omitted a provision from the ABA Model Rules that would have permitted "a candidate for elective judicial office (to) publicly endorse or oppose candidates for the same judicial office for which he or she is running."

A spokeswoman for the justices dismissed the memo. Speaking to Knoxnews reporter Tom Humphrey for his Humphrey on the Hill Blog, spokeswoman Carol Andrews said that “the activities of each of the justices is in full compliance with the Code of Judicial Conduct,” and that "the opinion is being used as additional fodder for a wholesale political attack against the independence of our Tennessee Supreme Court.”

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