Tag Archives: judicial selection

Supremes, appeals court judges win retention elections

All three state Supreme Court justices, appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to fill vacancies, won full terms in Thursday’s retention elections by better than 2-to-1 margins.

Results in the Supreme Court elections:

Supreme Court Retain Jeffrey Bivins
1,980 of 1,980 precincts – 100 percent

x-Yes 302,562 – 71 percent
No 125,113 – 29 percent

Supreme Court Retain Holly Kirby
1,980 of 1,980 precincts – 100 percent

x-Yes 302,069 – 71 percent
No 123,448 – 29 percent

Supreme Court Retain Roger Page
1,980 of 1,980 precincts – 100 percent

x-Yes 300,944 – 71 percent
No 123,796 – 29 percent
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Almost no spending in this year’s TN Supreme campaign

Registry of Election Finance records show the three Republican Tennessee Supreme Court justices facing a retention election on Aug. 4 have all set up campaign accounts and raised modest amounts of money — mostly from lawyers — but spent almost nothing.

That’s a striking contrast with two years ago, when three incumbent justices appointed by Democratic governors were on the August ballot. They collectively raised and spent more than $1.1 million while being supported by a separate group that spent $345,000.

The successful 2014 campaigns by Justices Cornelia Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade came despite almost as much being spent on attacking them as liberals soft on crime and supportive of the federal Affordable Care Act through the attorney general they chose — contentions they vigorously denied.

Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey put $605,000 into the anti-incumbent effort through his political action committee and a national GOP group added about $200,000. The combined total of about $2.5 million made for the most expensive Supreme Court campaign in Tennessee history.

This year, there has been no visible organized anti-incumbent campaign facing the three justices appointed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam — Jeffrey Bivins, Holly Kirby and Roger Page. Apparently concerned about the possibility, however, all three set up re-election campaign finance accounts and sought donations. Their reports, reflecting account status as of July 1, show: Continue reading

TBA asks judge candidates to sign Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct

News release from Tennessee Bar Association
NASHVILLE, May 5, 2016 – With three Tennessee Supreme Court Justices and seven intermediate appellate judges facing retention elections, along with 15 trial judges and a number of local judges on the ballot in August, the Tennessee Bar Association is renewing its effort to assure fair and impartial judicial elections by asking judges to subscribe to the Tennessee Fair Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct.

“Judicial elections are different,” said TBA President Bill Harbison. “Judges are not permitted to make promises or pledges about how they will rule because we expect them to proceed case by case to apply the law to the facts and come to fair and impartial decisions. The code helps to ensure this impartiality by committing the judges not to make pledges, promises or commitments on how they will rule in cases.”

In the 2014 election cycle, where all judges and judicial officers were on the ballot, more than 116 judges subscribed to the code. Letters to all known judges and judicial candidates on the ballot are being issued this week. For more information and to view the code of conduct, visit
http://www.tba.org/node/83220.

Note: The link includes listings of judicial candidates, including three Supreme Court justices — Jeffrey S. Bivins, Holly Kirby and Roger Page — and seven other appeals court judges who will be on the August ballot. The Supreme Court members are all Republican appointees of Gov. Bill Haslam and no opposition to their retention has surface, a contrast to the 2014 election when three justices appointed by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen were on the ballot (and won despite heavy opposition, led by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey).

Three nominated for Court of Criminal Appeals vacancy

News release from the governor’s office
Jackson, Tenn. ­– The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments met today in Jackson to consider eight applicants for the Court of Criminal Appeals vacancy created when Judge Roger A. Page was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court earlier this year.

The Council held a public hearing and interviewed eight candidates before selecting three nominees:

J. Robert Carter, Jr.
Memphis

J. Ross Dyer
Memphis

Bobby Gene Gray, Jr.
Adamsville

The Council has forwarded the names to Gov. Bill Haslam for his consideration. Any person appointed by the governor to serve as judge on the appellate court also will be subject to confirmation by the General Assembly.

Information on the nominees can be found at TNCourts.gov.

Appellate judges nominated to TN Supreme Court

As widely expected, a nominating committee has given Gov. Bill Haslam a choice of picking one of three current appeals court justices to fill the state Supreme Court seat vacated in September by former Justice Gary Wade.

All three of the current nominees were appointed to the bench originally by Haslam. They were selected today by a nominating commission appointed by Haslam from nine applicants for the position. By choosing one, of course, the governor will then be able to pick a new appeals court judge to fill the vacancy created on the appeals court bench.

Here’s the news release from the Administrative Office of the Courts with links to the application form information submitted by each:
Nashville, Tenn. ­– The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments met today in Nashville to consider nine applicants for the vacancy on the Tennessee Supreme Court created by the retirement last month of Justice Gary R. Wade.

After holding a public hearing and interviews of all nine applicants, the council chose three candidates in one round of voting. The nominees are:

Thomas Radcliffe Frierson, Morristown (application, HERE)

Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., Kingsport (application HERE)

Roger Amos Page, Medina (application form HERE)

All three nominees serve on the intermediate appellate courts. Judges Montgomery and Page are on the Court of Criminal Appeals and Judge Frierson is on the Court of Appeals. The Council has forwarded the names to Gov. Bill Haslam for his consideration. Any person appointed by the governor will be subject to confirmation by the legislature within 60 days of the beginning of their next session.

Note: Previous post (listing other applicants) HERE.

Governor chooses 11 to help him choose judges

News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the 11 members of the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments that will recommend candidates to the governor to fill vacancies for Tennessee trial and appellate courts.

The council was established by executive order following the November 4 passage of a constitutional amendment creating a method for selecting judges of the Supreme Court or any intermediate appellate court in Tennessee. Members of the council include three each from the western, middle and eastern divisions of the state. Two members are at-large.

“This council will ensure that we continue to have a strong, independent and impartial judicial system in our state,” Haslam said. “I am grateful to these members for their willingness to serve and their work to maintain a strong judiciary in Tennessee.”

Members of the council representing the Western Division of the state are:

Lang Wiseman, Wiseman Bray PLLC, Memphis
George Brown, Resolute Systems, LLC, Memphis
Bradford Box, Rainey Kizer Reviere & Bell PLC, Jackson

Members representing the Middle Division are:

Michelle J. Long, Tennessee Department of Health, Nashville
Michael Spitzer, The Spitzer Firm, Hohenwald
William “Bill” Young, Office of Attorney General and Reporter, Nashville

Members representing the Eastern Division are:

Rosemarie Hill, Chambliss Bahner & Stophel P.C., Chattanooga
Cheryl G. Rice, Egerton, McAfee, Armistead & Davis, P.C., Knoxville
R. Culver Schmid, Baker Donelson, Knoxville

At-Large members are:

David A. Golden, Eastman Chemical Company, Kingsport
Randy Noel, Butler Snow LLP, Memphis

With the passage of the amendment to Article VI, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution, the method of selecting appellate judges for a full term or to fill a vacancy is by and at the discretion of the governor. The governor’s appellate court appointments must then be confirmed by the General Assembly, and thereafter elected in a retention election by the voters of the state.

After receiving notice that a trial or appellate court vacancy has occurred or is impending, and after a public hearing, the council will select three candidates who are most qualified to fill the vacancy and send those names to the governor as nominees for the appointment. The governor will fill the vacancy by appointing a person from among the three nominated or require the council to submit a panel of three additional nominees.

UPDATE/Note: Some elaboration from local media on the appointees is below:
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Haslam Executive Order sets up new ‘Council for Judicial Appointments’

News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced he has issued Executive Order No. 41 establishing the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments, a group of 11 members that will recommend candidates to fill vacancies for Tennessee trial and appellate courts.

This action follows approval by Tennessee voters on November 4 of a constitutional amendment establishing a method for selecting judges of the Supreme Court or any intermediate appellate court in Tennessee.

“This council will allow us to select men and women of the highest caliber to ensure a fair, impartial and independent judiciary,” Haslam said. “The people have spoken in approving the constitutional amendment, and Tennesseans can feel confident about our judiciary under this process.”

With the passage of the amendment to Article VI, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution, the method of selecting appellate judges for a full term or to fill a vacancy is by and at the discretion of the governor. The governor’s appellate court appointments must then be confirmed by the General Assembly, and thereafter elected in a retention election by the voters of the state.

The members of the newly created council will be appointed by the governor and will include three members each from the western, middle and eastern divisions of the state. Two members will be appointed at-large.

After receiving notice that a trial or appellate court vacancy has occurred or is impending, and after a public hearing, the council will select three candidates that are most qualified to fill the vacancy and send those names to the governor as nominees for appointment. The governor will fill the vacancy by appointing a person from among the three nominated or require the council to submit a panel of three additional nominees.

The executive order supersedes and rescinds the previous executive order that established the Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments. Terms for members of the Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments ended on November 5, 2014.

Kelsey pre-files bills to implement Amendment 2, repeal Hall income tax

News release via Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE — Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) yesterday filed legislation related to Constitutional Amendments 2 and 3, which were sponsored by Kelsey and were ratified by Tennessee voters on Tuesday. Kelsey is the first person to sponsor two successful amendments to the 1870 Tennessee Constitution.

SB 1 will implement Amendment 2, which follows the Founding Fathers’ method of selecting judges. Appellate judges will be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature. Voters of Tennessee retain the ability to remove judges at the end of their 8-year terms. This new process differs from the previous process in Tennessee, in which judges were selected by an unelected, unaccountable panel of mostly lawyers. The constitutionality of that method had been in dispute since its enactment in 1971.

“Thankfully, a majority of Tennesseans voted to end a 40-year constitutional crisis by borrowing from the wisdom of America’s Founding Fathers,” said Kelsey. “I hope this legislation will stay on the books for 100 years or more.”

Amendment 3 banned a state income tax and any local payroll tax. It passed with 66% support. Amendment 3 left intact the Hall income tax, which is a state tax on interest and dividends. SB 2 will phase out the Hall income Tax over 3 years by reducing the 6% tax by 2% each year.

Kelsey said, “I am glad that an overwhelming majority of Tennesseans voted to ban a state income tax and local payroll tax with Amendment 3.” Kelsey continued, “Now it’s time to eliminate the Hall tax.”

Drafts of the bills are available HERE and HERE.

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown. He served as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 108th General Assembly.

Voters approve Amendment 2

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Voters have approved a change to the Tennessee Constitution that enshrines merit selection for appeals judges and Supreme Court justices while giving the Legislature some power over the process.

The constitution has said that Supreme Court justices “shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.” But since 1994, they have been appointed by the governor. Voters then decide whether to keep or replace them in uncontested retention elections.

The same system has been in place for other appellate judges since 1971. But merit selection has been challenged repeatedly as a violation of the constitution.

The amendment now writes the system into the constitution with an additional provision that gives the Legislature the power to reject a nominee.

Late, almost-complete returns showed a yes vote of 831,125 for the amendment, about 61 percent, and a no vote of 533,297, or 39 percent. (It appears the gubernatorial race will draw close to 1.4 million votes, meaning an amendment needs about 700,000 votes to meet the requirement of a majority of votes cast in the governor’s race.)

Statement from Vote Yes on 2 campaign committee:
Nashville, Tenn.—On the heels of the Tennessee general election, Vote YES on 2 campaign chair Governor Bill Haslam released the following statement:

“The voters’ approval of Amendment 2 brings clarity, certainty and accountability to the way we select our appellate court judges in Tennessee.

“I am grateful to Governor Bredesen, Senator Thompson and so many others for their bipartisan leadership on this important issue. I am also grateful to people across the state that went to the polls to vote. With Amendment 2, the voters have made clear they want fair and impartial judges held accountable to the people of Tennessee, and I look forward to working with the General Assembly on its implementation.” .

Critics decry ‘deceptive’ claim that Amendment 2 ‘protects our right to vote’

In robo calls and TV ads, proponents of Amendment 2 are using the line, “Yes on Two protects our right to vote for judges.” And some critics are calling foul, reports the Commercial Appeal.

That line used by the Yes on 2 campaign has prompted criticism by opponents — and even some supporters — of the amendment, who say it’s “political spin” or “deceptive” at best, or, at worst, “an absolute fabrication,” in the words of one opponent.

The amendment, which voters will decide Tuesday, deletes from the constitution these words: “The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state,” and replaces them with these: “Judges of the Supreme Court or any intermediate appellate court shall be appointed for a full term or to fill a vacancy by and at the discretion of the governor; shall be confirmed by the Legislature; and thereafter, shall be elected in a retention election by the qualified voters of the state….”

…The president of the Tennessee Farm Bureau, Lacy Upchurch, (uses the ‘protects our right to vote’ line) …. in a statewide TV ad by the Yes on 2 campaign… and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson says it does in recorded calls to the homes of Tennessee voters.

Vote No on 2 campaign treasurer Forrest Shoaf, a Nashville lawyer and conservative political activist, disagrees. “That’s an absolute fabrication,” he said. “In fact, it deprives us of the right to vote which was granted in the 1854 constitution. Retention elections are a fiction. In 43 years that there (have) been retention elections (in Tennessee), only one appellate judge has ever lost one.

John Crisp, spokesman for the Yes on 2 campaign, said that the phrase isn’t deceptive as an abbreviated version of a larger message used by the campaign in various other avenues.

…If the amendment is ratified, voters will be waiting up to four times longer — up to eight years — before they get their first direct vote on the appointed appellate judges than they do under the current system.

The language of the amendment is clear that the five Tennessee Supreme Court justices and the 12 judges on each the Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals “shall be appointed for a full term or to fill a vacancy by” the governor. A full judicial term in Tennessee is eight years.

Currently, vacancies in those judgeships are always filled by the governor, without legislative confirmation, but no more than two years lapse before voters get their first chance to retain or replace the judge.

A state attorney general’s opinion issued in 2013 says Amendment 2 is “unambiguous” on the ability of the governor to appoint an appellate judge for a full eight-year term and to fill vacancies, but opponents and supporters of the amendment disagree on when retention elections would occur for midterm appointees.

Some believe the governor’s appointee will be up for a vote at the next statewide August election. Others believe no vote will occur until the end of the term.