Chief Justice Wade: ‘We are getting a lesson in hard-ball politics’

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade tells the Bristol Herald-Courier that Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s efforts to have him and two other justices defeated in the Aug. 7 retention election has been “different and disconcerting.”

Wade, who was appointed by Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, said the legislation designed for retention of state Supreme Court justices was established to pull partisan politics out of the appellate court system, but Ramsey’s tactics have changed the process for this year.

“I guess we are getting a lesson in hardball politics,” Wade said.

“All of us in the judiciary have had a more comfortable situation in a sense that the judicial branch has not been a place for partisan politics. …Our thought was after we got [positive marks] from [JPEC] that it would be business as usual and that we would not face organized opposition. Of course in late February, we learned that there would be an organized effort to depose the three of us who chose to become candidates again.

“In a sense, it’s disturbing because it sort of changes the rules in the middle of the game. …It’s always been the prerogative of anyone to run a negative campaign and I think all of us in the system were aware of that possibility. We had hoped that that would not occur, but nevertheless it has, so we have taken an active approach to presenting to the people the case for us to being retained.”

…In a report generated by Ramsey’s office, the lieutenant governor criticized the lack of the use of the death penalty in the state…Wade said one of the delays in executions in the state between 2009 and 2013 was because the Tennessee Department of Correction was unable to acquire one of the three drugs in its protocol for lethal injections because the company in England that produced it decided it wasn’t good business to produce and export a drug used in corporal punishment.

The chief justice also said that the department has decided to go to a one-drug protocol and that move is being challenged in chancery court in Davidson County.

That has brought about a call from some state leaders to reinstitute the electric chair for executions, setting up another court case, Wade said.

“Obviously, the General Assembly has considered a belt and suspenders approach for the death penalty and according to polling data Tennesseans by and large approve of capital punishment by a significant majority,” he said. “The legislature responds to the wishes of the people in that regard. It’s our job to follow the law.”