A “confidential plan” put together in Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s office outlines potential lines of attack to oust three members of the Tennessee Supreme Court and is being used to try and convince big business to contribute to the ouster effort, according to WTVF-TV.
Earlier this year, a commission that — the lieutenant governor himself helped appoint — declared they were good qualified justices who should be retained.
But Ramsey’s strategy document suggests that the three justices could be portrayed as “soft on crime” and anti-business. It’s a message that he’s taken to people in the business community who could raise millions of dollars for a campaign to oust the three judges.
“We came up with this PowerPoint to be able to show business leaders where we are,” the lieutenant governor said. Ramsey explained that he “kind of laid out facts for them — some of the cases that they’ve overturned, some of the decisions they’ve made — and encouraged to not to sit on the sidelines.”
But Lew Conner, a prominent Republican lawyer and former appeals court judge, called Ramsey’s document “an unwarranted, unjustified attack on the independence of the judiciary.”
Conner said he fears that Ramsey’s plan opens a Pandora’s box where out-of-state groups — potentially including the billionaire Koch Brothers — could be dropping millions of dollars in Tennessee to influence a system of electing judges that was designed to be non-partisan.
“And unfortunately, guess where the money comes,” Conner said. “From lawyers on one side or the other or from special interest groups who will spend huge sums of money in order to make sure that a judge who favors one view or another is selected.”
…In fact, the strategy document faults the court for appointing current Attorney General Bob Cooper, labeling him an “enemy of job creators” and faulting him for entering national settlements that cost corporations billions of dollars.
It includes the settlement with Toyota, which got into trouble for producing vehicles prone to unintended accelerations.
Also included is the National Mortgage Settlement with banks that engaged in questionable foreclosure practices and settlements with pharmaceutical companies that got caught pushing drugs for unapproved uses.
“There’s no doubt that corporations are job creators — nobody can argue that,” Ramsey said.
Still, NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Ramsey to explain what was so bad about the Toyota settlement.
“I couldn’t tell you exactly, Phil. I really couldn’t,” he said. “What we are trying to establish is he won’t what I would call the Obamacare and things like that, but he doesn’t hesitate to join in if you’re pursuing a business.”
But our investigation discovered that many of the Republican attorneys general who may want to shake up Tennessee’s Supreme Court entered into those very same settlements.
“Are you saying that they were enemies of job creators?” we asked.
“Well, let’s say, I wouldn’t say that exactly,” Ramsey responded.
…Ramsey’s presentation also outlines a number of cases where the state Supreme Court itself has ruled against some of Tennessee’s biggest corporations — or, in some cases, refused to take up cases that businesses wanted them to take.
And it warns that so-called tort reform, passed last year by the legislature to limit jury verdicts, could be overturned if those three justices are allowed to keep their seats.