News

9 of 10 Lawyers Recommend Retention of Justices

Nine out of 10 lawyers recommend that Tennesseans vote to “retain” the three Tennessee Supreme Court Justices on the Aug. 7 ballot. That’s the result of a Tennessee Bar Association Candidate Evaluation Poll conducted over two weeks in early June. "We want to help the voting public make an informed decision in these retention elections by compiling the views of Tennessee lawyers and presenting them broadly,” TBA President Jonathan Steen of Jackson said. “These results provide a much better measure than partisan labels as to the issue of a judge’s capabilities."

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TBA to Release Judicial Retention Poll Results Friday

The results of the Tennessee Bar Association's first-ever Tennessee Supreme Court Candidate Evaluation Poll will be released at a press availability on Friday at 11 a.m. EDT in Gatlinburg during the TBA Convention. Outgoing TBA President Cindy Wyrick and incoming President Jonathan Steen will be available to discuss the results. A special edition of TBA Today also will be sent to TBA members on Friday morning with the poll results. The TBA announced the poll last month as part of an effort to provide information to the voting public to help ensure a fair, impartial and accountable judicial election.

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Supreme Court Evaluation Poll Open Until June 9

The Tennessee Bar Association has launched a Tennessee Supreme Court Candidate Evaluation Poll, which will remain open until June 9. For the first time in its history, the TBA is polling its members for their views on the three justices facing retention votes in the August General Election. For each of the three – Chief Justice Gary Wade, Justice Cornelia Clark and Justice Sharon Lee – TBA members are being asked to select one of four options: (1) highly recommend retention, (2) recommend retention, (3) do not recommend retention or (4) do not have an informed opinion at this time. The TBA is using the SurveyMonkey platform to conduct the survey, which ensures the secrecy of votes. If you have not yet received an email to participate, please check your spam folder for an email from SurveyMonkey.com. Results will be released in mid June.

The TBA is taking this unprecedented step because it believes that lawyers are uniquely qualified to provide an informed opinion as to whether a justice should be retained, and by providing the collective view of the organized bar, it can help Tennessee voters educate themselves about the election. The poll is one part of TBA’s efforts to help ensure that the 2014 judicial elections maintain a fair, impartial and accountable judiciary. Learn more about other efforts at the TBA’s Judicial Selection Information Center.

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Report: Special Interest Money Increasing in Judicial Elections

Spending by special interest groups continues to rise in judicial elections, accounting for 27 percent of all the money spent on the races in 2011 and 2012, according to a new report by a Justice at Stake partner organization. This is a sharp increase from the 16 percent seen in the 2003 and 2004 elections, which held the previous high in outside spending. The report has detailed information about judges who raised the most money and donors who gave the most, and it also identifies funding trends. As an example, the report says that during his campaign for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2012, Roy Moore raised more out-of-state money than any other appeals court judge running in the country. Moore’s campaign took in $265,440 — or 41 percent of his total campaign contributions — from donors in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Australia and Canada. Gavel Grab has more.

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More Candidates Agree to Campaign Code

Close to 180 judges and judicial candidates have now agreed to a higher standard of campaign conduct by signing the Tennessee Fair Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct. In doing so, they agree not to comment during the campaign on legal issues that might come before them as a judge, and if elected, to conduct themselves in a fair and impartial manner and recuse themselves from issues on which they already have announced how they would rule. To see who has signed the pledge, visit the 2014 Tennessee Judicial Selection Information Center. Candidates who have not signed but would like to, can also find a copy of the pledge there.

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NC Supreme Court Candidates Face Difficulties in Campaigns

Judges vying for North Carolina’s State Supreme Court face difficult and expensive challenges on the campaign trail ever since the state did away with public financing for judicial candidates last year, Gavel Grab reports. Judicial candidates can’t make promises or use traditional campaign tactics when trying to define their candidacies, which leads to an "awkward world of judges stumping for votes and money." North Carolina Supreme Court justice Cheri Beasley says the $1.2 to $2 million her consultants say she needs to raise for her reelection bid is outrageous. “We want judges that are focusing on doing their jobs and not focusing on being politicians,” she said.

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Vandy Law Hosts 'Justice at Risk' Conference

Judicial selection and the role money plays in judicial elections will be the focus of a conference held at Vanderbilt Law School March 20-21. Titled “Justice at Risk: Research Opportunities and Policy Alternatives Regarding State Judicial Selection,” the conference will focus specifically on how the method of selecting state judges affects judicial decision making. It is jointly sponsored by the American Constitution Society, the American Judicature Society, and Vanderbilt Law.

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New PAC to Educate Public on Judicial Issues

Tennesseans for Independent Courts, a new nonprofit political action committee, has announced it will educate the public on the “dangers of partisan political pressures on judicial elections and appointments.” The group, formed Jan. 10 by former personnel commissioner Randy Camp, who served in Gov. Phil Bredesen’s cabinet, will also provide support to judicial candidates who want to run for office without political affiliations, and back legislative and gubernatorial candidates who want the same. Camp states that the non-profit corporation has filed for 501 (c) designation with the IRS, and will be dedicated to informing, educating, engaging and involving the citizens of Tennessee in ensuring that the judicial branch of Tennessee’s government remains free and independent of partisan political pressures from any group or organization. KnoxBlogs has more.

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More Than 150 Judicial Candidates Sign Code of Conduct

More than 150 judicial candidates running for election this year have signed the Tennessee Fair Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct. In doing so, they have agreed not to comment during the campaign on legal issues that might come before them as a judge, and if elected, to conduct themselves in a fair and impartial manner and recuse themselves from issues on which they already have announced how they would rule. The list, released Jan. 27, includes justices and judges facing retention elections, as well as judges and challengers in contested elections. The program, which is aimed at preserving public faith in the integrity of the justice system, is overseen by the Judicial Campaign Code Committee. Learn more about the code and see the list of those who have agreed to abide by it on the TBA's online Judicial Selection Information Center. Judicial candidates who have not yet signed the pledge but desire to do so should email or call TBA staff member Karen Belcher, (615) 383-7421.

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Nearly 150 Judicial Candidates Sign Campaign Code of Conduct

Judges and judicial candidates agree to higher standard of campaign conduct

NASHVILLE, Jan. 29, 2014 -- A list of judges and judicial candidates who have agreed to a higher standard of campaign conduct was released today by the Tennessee Bar Association. Nearly 150 have signed the Tennessee Fair Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct. In doing so, they agree not to comment during the campaign on legal issues that might come before them as a judge, and if elected, to conduct themselves in a fair and impartial manner and recuse themselves from issues on which they already have announced how they would rule.

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140+ Judicial Candidates Sign Code of Conduct

More than 140 judicial candidates running for election this year have signed the Tennessee Fair Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct, in the first release of names by the TBA today. The list includes justices and judges facing retention elections, as well as judges and challengers in contested elections. The code of conduct program invites judicial candidates to agree to a campaign code aimed at preserving public faith in the integrity of the justice system. Since the effort was announced last fall, the TBA has been gathering information about judicial candidates and informing them about the code of conduct program. Learn more about the Code of Conduct or see the list of those who have agreed to abide by it on the TBA's Judicial Selection Information Center. Judicial candidates who have not yet signed the pledge but desire to do so should email or call TBA staff member Karen Belcher, (615) 383-7421.

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Judicial Candidates Face Special Challenges

As the judicial campaign season starts to heat up, candidates and their supporters are looking over the special challenges they face in trying to win over voters while still operating within  ethical guidelines. The Memphis Daily News looks over these challenges and how General Sessions candidate David Pool and Juvenile Court candidate Dan Michael are navigating them. “People need to pay more attention to the judicial elections,” Michael told the newspaper. "Educate yourself. Know who the judges are. Know what their experience is."

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TBA Renews Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct Program

The TBA is renewing a program that invites judges and judicial candidates to agree to a campaign code aimed at preserving public faith in the integrity of the justice system. Announcing the effort today, TBA President Cindy Wyrick said, “Judicial elections are different. Judges must run on a pledge that they will conduct themselves in a fair and impartial manner if elected. A judicial candidate who might be asked to pre-judge a case or to comment on legal issues might have to step aside, or recuse himself or herself, if they already announced how they would rule.” The 2014 effort builds on the highly successful 2006 program, which saw 189 judicial candidates agree to abide by the code of conduct. Judicial candidates who agree to the Tennessee Fair Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct during this election cycle will be listed on the TBA's website, which also will include general information about judicial campaigns and a voter guide called “Judging Judges.” Watch for details coming soon.

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Elected Judge Says He'd Prefer to End Judicial Elections

Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willet, a successful vote-getter who knows how to win judicial elections, says he finds these contests “toxic to the idea of an impartial, independent judiciary,” Gavel Grab reports. The judge disclosed his desire to bid judicial elections farewell, stating, “I’d be shocked if people didn’t look askance at such a flawed system. I do, too, having had close-up experience spanning several contested statewide races. Nothing would please me, or my wife, more than if my last election were my last election, and between now and 2018, Texans would opt for a smarter system. Hopeful? Yep. Optimistic? Nope.”

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Ethics Panel Clarifies Timeframe for Judicial Campaign Activity

In an opinion published today in TBA Today, the Tennessee Judicial Ethics Committee clarifies that judges may begin campaign activity before the 180-day period allowed for fundraising, but must comply with financial disclosure laws, must self-fund and may take no steps to solicit or accept funds before the 180-day period. The issue arose following questions raised at TBA’s Campaign Ethics Seminar in late July.

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