NASHVILLE, Oct. 24, 2013 -- Following a complete review of its policy on judicial selection, the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) Board of Governors on Oct. 12 reaffirmed its commitment to merit selection to fill judicial vacancies, and voted to support a constitutional amendment that provides for gubernatorial appointment, legislative confirmation and retention elections for judges. The board did so because of assurances that Governor Bill Haslam would include merit in the process via an Executive Order, if the amendment is adopted. The amendment will be on the ballot in the state's November 2014 general election.
The TBA leadership has worked closely with Governor Haslam's Administration in the weeks prior to the release of the governor's executive order of Oct. 17, which, when viewed in conjunction with the notice and application instructions, sets in place a commission and protocol for judicial appointments very much like the former Judicial Nominating Commission.
TBA President Cindy Wyrick, in announcing the TBA's support for the constitutional amendment, said, "The TBA will support the constitutional amendment because we have been assured that the Governor will implement a merit selection process to appoint qualified judges. We applaud Governor Haslam for his recent executive order, which demonstrates his continuing commitment to filling vacancies with qualified judges through use of a merit selection process."
TBA support for merit selection and retention elections goes back almost 50 years. This year's policy review began with discussions and votes in the association's Governmental Affairs Committee and its policy making House of Delegates. Final approval came as the Board met for its quarterly meeting this month.
"The advantage to the constitutional amendment, from our perspective, is that it puts retention elections squarely in the constitution," said Wyrick. The TBA maintains that retention elections, under current law, are constitutional as decided by three separate courts. "The combination of merit selection and retention elections is the best way to bring fairness, impartiality, stability, consistency and clarity to our legal system. These are the values we believe in," said Wyrick.
Text of the Amendment:
It is proposed that Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution of Tennessee be amended by deleting the first and second sentences and by substituting instead the following:
Judges of the Supreme Court or any intermediate appellate court shall be appointed for a full term or to fill a vacancy by and at the discretion of the governor; shall be confirmed by the Legislature; and thereafter, shall be elected in a retention election by the qualified voters of the state. Confirmation by default occurs if the Legislature fails to reject an appointee within sixty calendar days of either the date of appointment, if made during the annual legislative session, or the convening date of the next annual legislative session, if made out of session. The Legislature is authorized to prescribe such provisions as may be necessary to carry out Sections two and three of this article.
Download the text of the resolution adopted by the TBA Board of Governors.
Download Senate Joint Resolution 2, which contains the text of the amendment and instructions for ballot consideration.