TBA Votes to Support Constitutional Amendment on Judicial Selection; Merit Selection to Be Made Part of the Process by Executive Order

Following a complete review of the TBA policy on judicial selection, the TBA Board of Governors on Oct. 12 reaffirmed its commitment to merit selection to fill judicial vacancies and voted to support the Constitutional amendment, which provides for gubernatorial appointment, legislative confirmation and retention elections for judges. The Board did so because of assurances that Governor Bill Haslam would include merit in the process via an Executive Order, if the amendment is adopted. The amendment will be on the ballot in the state’s November 2014 general election.

The TBA leadership has worked closely with Governor Haslam’s Administration in the weeks prior to the release of the Governor’s executive order of Oct. 17, which, when viewed in conjunction with the notice and application instructions, sets in place a commission and protocol for judicial appointments very much like the former Judicial Nominating Commission.

TBA President Cindy Wyrick, in announcing the TBA’s support for the constitutional amendment, said “the TBA will support the constitutional amendment because we have been assured that the Governor will implement a merit selection process to appoint qualified judges. We applaud Governor Haslam for his recent executive order, which demonstrates his continuing commitment to filling vacancies with qualified judges through use of a merit selection process.”

TBA support for merit selection and retention elections goes back almost 50 years. This year’s policy review began with discussions and votes in the association's Governmental Affairs committee and its policy making House of Delegates. Final approval came as the Board met for its quarterly meeting.

“The advantage to the constitutional amendment, from our perspective, is that it puts retention elections squarely in the constitution,“ said Wyrick. The TBA maintains that retention elections, under current law, are constitutional as decided by three separate courts. “The combination of merit selection and retention elections is the best way to bring fairness, impartiality, stability, consistency, and clarity to our legal system. These are the values we believe in,” said Wyrick.