News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – The Judicial Nominating Commission will consider ten applicants when it meets later this month in Jackson to select nominees for the upcoming vacancy on the Tennessee Court of Appeals Western Section.
The opening is the result of Court of Appeals Judge Alan E. Highers informing Gov. Bill Haslam that he will retire at the end of his term, August 31, 2014. Because statutory provisions for the Judicial Nominating Commission expire June 30, 2013, the commission will meet this month to select a slate of candidates for Gov. Bill Haslam to choose from.
The Judicial Nominating Commission will meet Saturday, June 29 in Jackson at the DoubleTree Hotel, 1770 Highway 45 Bypass, to interview and hear public comments regarding the 10 applicants. A public hearing will start at 9 a.m. and be followed by individual interviews of all the candidates.
The commission is expected to make their selections immediately following the interviews. They will send two slates, each with three names, to the governor for his consideration.
Completed applications of all the candidates can be found on TNCourts.gov.
Tennessee’s Judicial Nominating Commission, which will cease to exist at the end of this month, is moving to play its role in naming successors to three appeals court judges who have announced they will retire more than a year from now.
The commission’s farewell performances will come in meetings June 27, 28 and 29 to select nominees to succeed Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Cottrell of Nashville, Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Joseph Tipton of Knoxville and Court of Appeals Judge Alan Highers of Memphis.
All three have announced an intention to retire effective Aug. 30, 2014, when the terms of all sitting state judges will expire following retention elections for new judicial terms on Aug. 7, 2014.
If things go according to plan, the commission will submit a slate of nominees to succeed each of the three retiring appellate judges to Gov. Bill Haslam before June 30, when the panel will “sunset,” or cease to exist.
News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – Court of Appeals Judge Alan E. Highers has notified Gov. Bill Haslam that he will not seek re-election when his term expires August 31, 2014.
The decision creates a vacancy in Western Section of the Court of Appeal as of September 1, 2014. Due to the June 30, 2013 expiration of the statutory provisions for the Judicial Nominating Commission, the commission will meet June 29, 2013 to select nominees for Judge Highers’ anticipated vacancy.
Judge Highers is the presiding judge of the Western Section of the Court of Appeals and is the senior appellate judge in the state. He has been a member of the Court of Appeals since 1982, when he was appointed by Gov. Lamar Alexander.
A past president and executive committee member of the Tennessee Judicial Conference, Judge Highers is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University , Lipscomb University and the University of Memphis School of Law.
“I look forward to fulfilling the remainder of my term in the service of our state,” said Judge Highers in his letter to Gov. Haslam.
Any qualified applicant interested in the seat on the Court of Appeals must be a licensed attorney who is at least 30 years of age, a resident of the state for five years, and a resident of their circuit or district for one year and must reside in the Western Grand Division.
Applicants must complete the designated application, which is available at www.tncourts.gov, and submit it to the Administrative Office of the Courts by Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at noon CDT.
The Judicial Nominating Commission will interview all qualified applicants for the Court of Appeals opening Saturday, June 29 in Jackson. This follows meetings June 27 and June 28 in the Eastern and Middle divisions for anticipated 2014 openings on appellate courts in each of those sections.
The meeting will include a public hearing in which members of the public may express their opinions about the applicants. The interview, public hearing and deliberation process will be open to the public.
For more information, visit http://www.tncourts.gov/administration/judicial-resources.
The Tennessean reports that two executive-level Department of Children’s Services staffers — whose duties at the agency included reviewing the deaths of children — were fired Tuesday. Dismissed were:
• Debbie Miller, 61, executive director of family and child well-being, who oversaw medical and behavioral health and education for children in custody and independent living for teens that age out of DCS custody; and
• Alan Hall, 47, executive director of performance and quality improvement, who oversaw department policies, licensing and accountability, and who led the department’s internal audit.
Department spokeswoman Molly Sudderth said Miller’s position was eliminated as part of a restructuring. Hall will be replaced. The Tennessean asked why Hall was dismissed, and Sudderth did not give an answer.
In a Tennessean review of personnel files in October, neither Hall nor Miller had any reprimands. Information about their service since then was not immediately available, Sudderth said.
Reached by phone, Hall said Wednesday he was “certainly shocked” at his firing.
“I’m evaluating my options,” he said.
Miller did not return calls.
The firings are the latest for a department that has seen a high level of executive turnover since Commissioner Kate O’Day took charge in January 2011. The Tennessean reported in November that more than 70 executive-level employees had been terminated during her time — more employees, and a higher rate of dismissals, than all but a handful of other state government departments.
Democrat Alan Woodruff of Gray is running against history in Northeast Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District, observes the Kingsport Times-News, since no Democrat has been elected to represent the district in either the 20th or the 21st century. Woodruff was quick to be lighthearted about politics when asked about his campaign plan.
“You need to understand I suffer from a serious case of (Vice President) Joe Biden disease,” Woodruff said with a smile. “If you ask a question, I’m likely to give you an answer. But, as an example of partisanship, I also adopt the (GOP presidential challenger) Mitt Romney philosophy that I may forget what I’ve said, but I’m sure I stand by it.”
Woodruff, a 69-year-old attorney, is going up against two-term GOP incumbent U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, plus two independent challengers and one Green Party candidate, in a long shot bid to win the district seat.
A federal judge has ruled in favor of Tennessee’s Green and Constitution parties’ joint lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Nashville that claimed laws on the books violated the state constitution by making it unreasonably hard for third parties to get their names on the ballots, reports the Johnson City Press.
The decision says both the Green and Constitutional parties can have their names on Tennessee’s 2012 ballot with their candidates. It also strikes down a state law declaring that the majority party’s candidates are listed first on the ballot. “This is a great victory for voters in the state, because now we’ve made it easier for new parties to form,” said Alan Woodruff, a Johnson City attorney who announced his plans to represent the parties during a visit to the Johnson City Press last summer. “This ruling removes limitations and gives people an option. I believe in democracy and that everybody that has something to say should be on the ballot.”
(Note: The full 90-page ruling is available HERE) Woodruff, a Democrat running against U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, said that though he is affiliated with a major party, he got involved in the suit to fight for equity for all parties.
On Feb. 3, Judge William J. Haynes Jr. ruled in favor of claims by the plaintiffs and against Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter and defendants Tre Harget, secretary of state, and Mark Goins, coordinator of elections.
Both the Green and Constitution parties are recognized by state law as a “minor” parties, which, by definition means they are required to file a nominating petition with the state’s coordinator of elections. That petition must bear the signatures of a minimum of at least 2.5 percent of the total number of votes cast for gubernatorial candidates in the most recent election for governor.
Haynes wrote in his Feb. 3 order and/or judgment that he agreed with plaintiffs that that mark gives Goins leeway to raise the number at his discretion and therefore was “unconstitutionally vague, and imposes impermissible burdens on Plaintiff’s First Amendment right to associate as a political party.”
For a “minor” political party to get its name on the Tennessee ballot in 2012, more than 40,000 signatures would have to be collected by April 5. This law has not applied to the Republican and Democrat, or “major,” parties.
Haynes wrote in his opinion that the deadline was too early and unconstitutional, and that a more reasonable number of signatures for the nominating petition would be 10,000. This will need to be settled in the General Assembly.
“Any deadline in excess of 60 days prior to the August primary for the filing of petitions for recognition as a political party is unenforceable,” he wrote.
Haynes also declared that minor parties cannot be required to conduct primaries, which currently is state law. Woodruff has claimed that primaries are much too expensive, especially for smaller parties, and that nominating conventions would help relieve that burden.
The judge also enjoined the state from banning the words “independent” and “non-partisan” in a party’s name as it appears on a ballot, stating it violated the First Amendment rights of free speech.
He also said the state’s requirement that major parties be listed highest on ballots followed by minor parties and independents was unlawful, saying this is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause in the Forth Amendment. He also ordered the state to hold a random drawing regarding the order of party names.
He also ruled against current state law that requires signatures on nominating petitions to be accompanied by party affiliation, stating this also violated First Amendment rights to privacy and political beliefs.
(Note: The state’s attorneys can appeal the decision. Meanwhile, a “caption bill” pending in the Legislature could be amended to make changes in the current law in accord with the judge’s ruling.)