Winfield Dunn: John Jay Hooker is Right on Retention Elections

Former Tennessee Gov. Winfield Dunn, who in 1971 signed a bill into law that changed the way the state selects appeals judges, on Friday said that enacting the bill was a mistake.
From The Tennessean:
At the time I signed it, I felt constrained by many other issues,” Dunn said. “I regret signing the retention election bill.”
Those comments followed a hearing at the Tennessee Supreme Court in which attorney John Jay Hooker, merciless critic of judicial appointments, presented his argument that state law says appeals judges ought to be elected by voters, not appointed. It’s a position Hooker has championed in court but lost so many times that, some joke, everyone has lost count — even Hooker himself.
“If you want to wear those black robes, not just for this afternoon, you have to run for it, and run the risk of losing,” Hooker said in a theatrical performance, punctuated by finger wags and podium pounds. “It’s not fun to lose. I’ve become a professional at it.”
The judges were not the typical members of the state’s high. Instead, they were appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam after Hooker complained that the usual justices shouldn’t hear the case since they were all chosen through the current system.
Hooker, a former Democratic candidate for governor who lost to Dunn, has sued the state and asked the special court to reverse a 1973 decision, Higgins v. Dunn, which supported the current system.
…Attorney Janet Kleinfelter, representing the state, said it was not the first time but should be the last time the state defends the way appeals judges are elected, known formally as the Tennessee Plan.
Kleinfelter pointed out that the system has twice held up on appeal, and that other state supreme courts, such as Georgia’s, have concluded that appointing appeals judges is constitutional.
“This judicial system is entitled to finality,” Kleinfelter said.

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2 thoughts on “Winfield Dunn: John Jay Hooker is Right on Retention Elections

  1. Eric H

    “Kleinfelter pointed out that the system has twice held up on appeal, and that other state supreme courts, such as Georgia’s, have concluded that appointing appeals judges is constitutional.”
    I suggest you move to Georgia so you can live under their state constitution. Are you going to listen to them and give away the Tennessee River too? Tennessee’s state constitution says what you are doing and defending is ILLEGAL. Current legislative efforts to amend the constitution to allow the CURRENT practice are AN ADMISSION OF GUILT.

  2. Josh R

    The current effort to amend the Constitution, and permit this current practice, codifies Constitutionally the very same conflict which currently exits between the Constitution and the Statute. But after ratification the conflict can’t be resolved without further amendments to the Constitution.
    (i.e) The new wording for Article VI Section 3 says, members of the lower Court of Appeals are appointed and retention elected state wide and then in the very next Section 4 it says they are elected by the qualified voters of the District to which they are assigned.
    there are more and it goes on…. This is nuts

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