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Posted by: on Oct 30, 2008

Journal Issue Date: Nov 2008

Journal Name: November 2008 - Vol. 44, No. 11

I am writing this letter to thank you, your staff, and your contributors for the excellent content and professional polish of the Tennessee Bar Journal. During the early '70s, I served on the TBA Board of Governors and contributed some legal articles which were published in the Journal. However, I believe that the quality of the Journal is better now than then. I find that the articles in the Journal, including the "serious" ones by Bill Haltom, are not only useful but entertaining as well.

I have been in active practice for more than 55 years and get to my office every day usually before 8 o'clock. Although this ritual may be part habit and is not as much fun as it used to be, it is still part of my professional life. I do not claim any special recognition for being able to survive many of my classmates and colleagues in active practice, but it would be interesting to know how many "Senior Counselor" members of the Tennessee Bar Association are still in active practice and the length of their practice.

— Allen Shoffner, Shelbyville

EDITOR'S NOTE: That's a great question, but unfortunately our records do not provide enough information on Senior Counselors to know whether or not they are still actively engaged in the practice of law. It's wonderful to hear from Senior Counselors — especially when they offer kind words such as yours — and we encourage more to write in.

Past members of our judiciary did have courage as suggested by our president in the last Tennessee Bar Journal ("Courage and Rule of Law: Adams, Brock and O'Connor," by Buck Lewis, October 2008). Courage was shown by their doing what they thought was right when the law said they should have done something else. Still, his praise for what they did bothered me, as did his use of the terms, "rule of law" and "judicial independence."  

"The rule of law" means no one is above the law. Our president seems to suggest there is an exception for judges and that at times judicial independence justifies a deviation from the law. "Judicial independence" is a concept saying judges should make their decisions in cases without being swayed by outside influences; it is not a defense to charges of failure to follow the law.

Witnesses take an oath to tell the truth before they may testify in court. Violating the oath subjects them to perjury charges. Judges take an oath to support our Constitution before they assume their duties. They aren't supporting the Constitution if they do what it prohibits, as in exercising a power belonging in another department.  

Sec 2, Art II of our Constitution provides: "No person or persons belonging to one of these departments shall exercise any of the powers properly belonging to either of the others, except in the cases herein directed or permitted."

When judges improperly exercise powers belonging to another department they violate both the Constitution and their oath to defend it. These actions are seldom punished. They are often praised.   

The judiciary would be held in higher esteem if all judges took their oath as seriously as we expect of others.

 — Andrew F. Bennett Jr., Cleveland, Tenn.