Judicial Redistricting Talk Raises Political Fears

Republican lawmakers are planning to redraw the map of Tennessee’s court system, raising fears of gerrymandering and politicization ahead of major judicial elections next year, according to The Tennessean.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and other top Republicans in the state Senate are launching an effort to cut some of Tennessee’s 31 judicial districts and realign those that remain, in what would be the first redistricting effort since 1984.
Redistricting could shift the balance on Tennessee’s courts, which Republicans have long complained are too liberal. The effort comes as judges, prosecutors and public defenders across Tennessee prepare to run for new eight-year terms.
“I hope it’s not politics,” said state Sen. Lowe Finney of Jackson, the Senate Democratic Caucus chairman. “The speaker (Ramsey) says he has good reasons for proposing this, and in the next few weeks, I guess we’ll find out what those are.”
Ramsey and other supporters of redistricting say the state’s judicial map is outdated and already riddled with political inconsistencies. A study of caseloads released Tuesday by the state comptroller estimated that Tennessee has between six and seven too many judges, but 14 districts, including Davidson County, have too few.
Proponents say a new plan could save taxpayer money and rationalize the system by combining communities with similar needs into the same districts.
But many in the judicial branch say Ramsey’s initial proposal, circulated in the fall, made little practical sense. The shakeup would smash relationships forged among court officers, lawyers and police agencies through decades of working together, they say.
“The questions are, what are we trying to accomplish and how does this plan go about trying to accomplish that?” said Allan Ramsaur, executive director of the Tennessee Bar Association.

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