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.

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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Carr Says Akin Should Stay, But Denies Agreement on Rape

State Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, denied telling a reporter today that he agreed with U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s theory that victims of “legitimate rape” seldom carry pregnancies to term, but he stood by his position that Akin should not be pressured to leave the Missouri Senate race. Carr confirmed to the Tennessean that he does not think Akin should be forced to drop out, but that view does not constitute proof that he agrees with Akin on the subject of rape.

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South Carolina Voter ID Law Trial Underway

The federal trial over South Carolina's voter identification law began Monday. During testimony, state Sen. George "Chip" Campsen III cited examples of fraud that he took into consideration while drafting early versions of South Carolina's law. But under questioning from Justice Department attorney Anna Baldwin, Campsen said the examples he gave did not involve the type of fraud that requiring photo identification would address. The Justice Department rejected South Carolina's law, passed last year, which requires specific photo identification be shown in order to vote. The department decided the law violates Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters. South Carolina's voter photo ID law was subject to approval from the Justice Department because of its history of racial discrimination. WRCB has this AP story

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Public Policy Added to UT Master's Degree

The University of Tennessee this fall began offering a new master of public policy and administration through a partnership between the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and the College of Arts and Science’s political science department. The new degree replaces the existing master of public administration degree that has been offered for more than 40 years. The degree will "equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to be effective managers, responsible executives and ethical public servants,” program director Professor David Folz said.

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Official Investigation Opens into 10th District Allegations

The Tennessee Attorney General’s office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today announced they have opened an investigation into allegations of misconduct and financial improprieties in the 10th Judicial District, the Times Free Press reports. On Saturday, three legislators also responded to allegations of legal and ethical impropriety surrounding 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steven Bebb. State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, House Judiciary Chair Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, and Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, said impeachment proceedings could be started in January after the Tennessee General Assembly returns to session. “The integrity of the system of justice in the 10th District and in our state should not be determined by mere rumors, nor should the reputation of Steve Bebb," said Bell, who is secretary on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Cleveland Daily Banner has more

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Lawmakers Question Campus Gun and Knife Rules

Revisions to the University of Tennessee student conduct rules has sparked concern among some legislators who questioned rules banning guns and most knives with blades three inches or longer. The revamped rules also add some new provisions, such as a prohibition on surreptitiously recording another student when he or she has a "reasonable expectation of privacy." Under state law, the legislature must sign off on all new rules promulgated by state agencies. The Government Operations Committee this week gave its OK, but the rules will go before the full general assembly early next year, the News Sentinel reports.

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Summerville Booted as Chair for Comments to Black Caucus

State Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, doesn’t “give a rat’s ass what the black caucus thinks.” That is what he told Memphis state Rep. Barbara Cooper via email Wednesday in response to her report from the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators criticising the probe of a state university for changing students’ grades. Response was swift on Thursday, TNReport says, when Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Dolores Gresham stripped Summerville of his chairmanship on the Higher Education Subcommittee. On Friday, Summerville resigned from the Senate Education Committee, the Commercial Appeal reports and Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, said Friday that he has been asked to take over as chairman of the subcommittee, the Tennessean reports in its In Session blog.

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