Government Affairs Update

Follow the TBA's efforts to influence federal and state policy as it fulfills one of the core missions of the association – advocacy for the profession and for our system of justice.

Hooker May Challenge Blumstein's Impartiality

John Jay Hooker on Friday told The TNReport that he expects to file a motion challenging Special Court Justice Andrée Sophia Blumstein's impartiality to hear his case on the constitutionality of the state’s judicial selection method. Gov. Haslam appointed Blumstein and four others to sit on a Special Supreme Court to hear the matter. Three of them recused themselves last week. Hooker says Blumstein's role on the editorial board of the Tennessee Bar Journal, a publication of the Tennessee Bar Association, poses a conflict because the association is in favor of the Tennessee Plan.

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Executive Order Clarifies Ethics Policy; Gov's Meetings Stay Secret

Gov. Bill Haslam issued Executive Order No. 20 last week on "ethics policy and disclosures" in the executive branch of state government. While spokesman David Smith said the new order brings "clarity by combining everything from the two (previous orders) into a single executive order," it does not open up information on private meetings held by the governor as had been requested by the online news service TNReport. "There's just a lot of discussions that we have, that any governor needs to have, as part of the decision-making process that we go through on so many different issues," the governor told TNReport, though adding he might "revisit" his stance at some point. The News Sentinel reports

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Rep. Todd Arraignment Moved to Next Week

State Rep. Curry Todd's arraignment on drunken driving and weapons charges, set for today, has been delayed until Sept. 14, the Associated Press reports. The Collierville Republican was arrested in October after failing a roadside sobriety test. A loaded .38-caliber gun was found stuffed in a holster between the driver's seat and center console.

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2 Republican Race Results Will Stand

The Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee, acting in its role as the state primary board, today voted to uphold the primary election results in State House District 71 and Congressional District 9. Shirley Curry lost to Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, by four votes, according to unofficial returns. Charlotte Bergmann lost to George Flinn by about 7,000 votes. The subcommittee unanimously recommended to the full committee that both election contests be dismissed based on their review of the election contests. The News Sentinel reports

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Surgeon Considers Run for Campfield's Seat

State Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, is in the middle of a four-year term but Knox County Commissioner Richard Briggs has expressed new interest in seeking his 7th Senate District seat in 2014, the News Sentinel reports. Briggs, a Repubilcan, is a cardiothoracic surgeon and retired Army colonel who has served in active and reserve units. He says he will wait until after the Nov. 6 elections before making a decision.

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Lawsuits May Impact Election

A series of court battles in several states may determine, over the next several weeks, everything from how people cast their votes, when polling locations will be open and what ballots will look like. Many cases have a partisan bent, with rulings potentially tipping the scales slightly in favor of Democrats or Republicans. WMCT has this AP story

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Portland Judge Steps Down to Focus on State House Race

Portland City Judge Steven Glaser has stepped down from the post to focus on his race against William Lamberth for the 44th District state House seat, the Tennessean reports. To fill the position, the Portland City Council has appointed Jane Wheatcraft as interim city judge. "I am not prohibited by law from seeking a state office while holding a municipal post, but I would like to avoid any appearance of impropriety which might arise,” Glaser wrote in an Aug. 6 letter.

Summers: Remember Past Experience with ‘Election’ of Judges

In an opinion piece in the Tennessean today, former state attorney general Paul Summers writes that those supporting direct election of appellate judges have forgotten the state’s past experience with that system. “Back when we had partisan elections for the judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals and Court of Appeals, they were in theory elected by hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans. In truth, they were selected by a handful of party officials in Nashville...” Summers writes. He reminds readers that in those days, Democrats were in charge and often Republicans didn’t even put up a slate of judges. Today, under merit selection, he argues, the appellate courts are more evenly balanced.

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Corker Names New General Counsel

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker announced Wednesday that veteran Senate aide Rob Strayer will serve as his new legislative director and general counsel. A 2000 graduate of Vanderbilt Law School, Strayer most recently worked at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., where he served as director of the Homeland Security Project. He previously served as deputy staff director of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Strayer replaces Ryan Berger who will remain on staff as a policy advisor. The office also announced that John Lipsey has been promoted to chief counsel. The Chattanoogan reported the news

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Former Judges Lead Fight for Missouri Merit Selection

Defenders of Missouri’s nationally recognized merit selection plan for choosing judges have unveiled a campaign to defeat proposed changes when voters go to the polls this fall. According to critics, the proposed state constitutional amendment would insert politics into choosing appellate judges and give too much influence to the governor. A group of former judges, state bar leaders and community representatives have formed the Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts Committee to fight the initiative. Among the leaders are six former state Supreme Court judges. Read more from Gavel Grab

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