Ruminations on retention election aftermath: Distrust of legislature, impeachment next?

A couple of articles, from different perspectives, on the victory of three Supreme Court justices despite an effort to unseat them led by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey:

From Frank Cagle:
I think people resented and feared a Republican supermajority in the Legislature deciding who should or shouldn’t be an appeals court judge.

Do we want one branch of government to be at the beck and call of another? Do we want an independent judiciary or do we want lackeys doing the legislature’s bidding? Afraid to make the right ruling under the law and the constitution because it might not be politically popular with your masters?

I think that was the message of this election.

Which brings us to Amendment Two on the ballot in November. This amendment puts into the constitution that the Supreme Court, and appeals court justices, will be appointed by the governor and will be ratified by the state Legislature. Currently that would mean Gov. Bill Haslam would nominate members of the court and then a legislative committee, the Senate version stacked with people appointed by Ramsey, will decide their qualifications.

In other words, you don’t get to be an appellate court justice unless Ramsey approves.

…If the amendment passes, you are giving up your right to vote for Supreme Court Justices because the current appointment of judges will be enshrined in the constitution. With the added requirement that the legislators must ratify the choice.

I’m sure the take-away that judges have from this election is that the political campaign to oust them was difficult and that if they face election it will be introducing politics into the process. I would submit that it would have been easier for the judges to run against “somebody” instead of nobody. And in this day and age, if retention elections continue, you can expect political spending by some group to oust you.

The only way for the state appellate court justices to be a free and independent branch of government is to be elected by the people, like legislators and the governor. The defeat of Amendment Two clears the way to reestablish the election of judges. A yes vote precludes that ever happening.

The Tennessee Watchdog, which pushed actively to unseat the three justices, reports that John Jay Hooker has “received assurances” that members of the state legislature are prepared to seek impeachment of the justices in the next legislative session.

Hooker will not publicly tell Tennessee Watchdog which members of the Legislature are willing to proceed with impeachment, yet it all may depend on the outcome of Hooker’s first course of action — involving the Davidson County grand jury in Nashville.

“I’m not going to ask them to indict the judges,” Hooker said.

“I’m simply going to ask the grand jury to issue a report that says these judges were unlawfully on the ballot and therefore they are unlawfully elected.”

Hooker told Tennessee Watchdog last week state Supreme Court justices, who had a professional stake in the matter, are responsible for not informing JPEC of this oversight.

JPEC members disregarded Hooker’s complaints during their hearings, he said.

These judges, even if they didn’t see the value in the requirement that a sufficient number of women and minorities serve on JPEC, disregarded state law, regardless, Hooker added.

Metro Nashville and Davidson County District Attorney General Torry Johnson told Tennessee Watchdog on Tuesday that Hooker approached the grand jury on a similar matter three months ago.

“The grand jury listened to him and said he made some interesting points, but they didn’t see where they could take any action,” Johnson said, adding a different grand jury will hear Hooker’s latest argument.

“It could issue a report, but it’s just a grand jury report. It doesn’t really carry any weight that I can see that will cause anything to change.”

Tennessee law allows private citizens who think they’ve suffered some sort of criminal aggrievement to approach their local grand jury, Johnson said.