Politics and the Bench: Commissioner Cites Pressures - Articles

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Posted by: Barry Kolar on Mar 12, 2014

Partisan politics is influencing the evaluation of Tennessee judges, a member of the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission wrote in an email to Republican leaders in the state Senate. In the email, obtained by the Associated Press through an open records request, Commission member Chris Clem said that Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Bill Koch is not as conservative as many of his fellow Republicans think, stating "Koch may be the most liberal member of the Court." In a follow up interview with the AP, Clem said he sent the email because he was getting "pushback" for "going after" Koch, who he believed should not remain in office. Koch, onetime legal adviser to then-Gov. Lamar Alexander, announced in December he is leaving the court in July to become dean of the Nashville School of Law. He says his decision had nothing to do with the maneuvering indicated in Clem's email. Tennessee Bar Association Executive Director Allan Ramsaur, who helped push for judicial evaluations when the process was being set up, said in an interview that the whole process of nomination, evaluation and retention was intended to insulate judges from undue political pressure.