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.
The TBA began the Code of Conduct initiative in 2006. Explaining why it is important that candidates agree to abide by the code, TBA President Cindy Wyrick says, "Judicial elections are different from political elections. Judges must run on a pledge that they will conduct themselves in a fair and impartial manner if elected. Judicial candidates who might be asked to pre-judge a case or comment on a legal issue that may come before them, might have to step aside, or recuse himself or herself, if they already announced how they would rule." By maintaining impartiality, judicial candidates preserve public faith in the integrity of the justice system.
The Code of Conduct contains seven points. By signing the code, the candidate agrees to:
• Adhere to Supreme Court rules governing judicial elections;
• Act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity, fairness, competence, independence and impartiality of the judiciary;
• Not take public positions on issues that might come before the court;
• Not make false or misleading statements;
• Form a committee, if applicable, to manage campaign donations and expenditures;
• Not allow campaign staff to take public positions on issues that might come before the court; and
• Disavow campaign statements or materials that undermine the integrity of the judicial system or erode public trust and confidence in the independence of the judiciary.
The Code of Conduct program is an initiative of the TBA's Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee, which is chaired by Chattanooga lawyer and past TBA President Sam Elliott. Other committee members include prominent lawyers and citizen members from across the state. They are:
• Mary H. Beard, FedEx Corporation, Memphis
• Elizabeth Kennedy Blackstone, Attorney, Columbia
• Lance Bracy, Former Chief Disciplinary Counsel, Board of Professional Responsibility, Goodlettsville
• George H. Brown, Retired Circuit Court Judge, Memphis
• Lew Conner, Waller Law, Nashville
• Jacqueline B. Dixon, Weatherly McNally & Dixon, Nashville
• Dr. Ronald H. Kirkland, The Jackson Clinic, Jackson
• Anne C. Martin, Bone McAllester Norton, Nashville
• Jimmie Carpenter Miller, Hunter, Smith & Davis, Kingsport
• Sarah Y. Sheppeard, Sheppeard & Mynatt, Knoxville
• Buckner "Buck" Wellford, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, Memphis
• Berje Yacoubian, Yacoubian Research, Memphis
Judicial candidates who have not yet signed the code but desire to do so should email or call TBA staff member Karen Belcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or (615) 383-7421.
Under the Tennessee Constitution, all judges stand for election at the same time and are elected for eight-year terms. This year, that election will take place Aug. 7. The state's Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals judges will be subject to a retention vote. For these judges, voters will chose either "retain" or "replace." Candidates for all other courts -- including chancery, circuit, criminal, general sessions and juvenile -- will face contested elections.
Visit the TBA's Judicial Selection Information Center to:
• See the list of candidates running
• Download the Code of Conduct and see the list of those who have signed it
• See retention recommendations from the Tennessee Judicial Evaluation Commission
• Download "Judging Our Judges" -- a guide to help voters evaluate judicial candidates
• Learn more about "Informed Voters -- Fair Judges" -- a voter education resource from the National Association of Women Judges and the League of Women Voters