Former Tennessee Gov. Winfield Dunn, who in 1971 signed a bill into law that changed the way the state selects appeals judges, on Friday said that enacting the bill was a mistake.
From The Tennessean:
“At the time I signed it, I felt constrained by many other issues,” Dunn said. “I regret signing the retention election bill.”
Those comments followed a hearing at the Tennessee Supreme Court in which attorney John Jay Hooker, merciless critic of judicial appointments, presented his argument that state law says appeals judges ought to be elected by voters, not appointed. It’s a position Hooker has championed in court but lost so many times that, some joke, everyone has lost count — even Hooker himself.
“If you want to wear those black robes, not just for this afternoon, you have to run for it, and run the risk of losing,” Hooker said in a theatrical performance, punctuated by finger wags and podium pounds. “It’s not fun to lose. I’ve become a professional at it.”
The judges were not the typical members of the state’s high. Instead, they were appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam after Hooker complained that the usual justices shouldn’t hear the case since they were all chosen through the current system.
Hooker, a former Democratic candidate for governor who lost to Dunn, has sued the state and asked the special court to reverse a 1973 decision, Higgins v. Dunn, which supported the current system.
…Attorney Janet Kleinfelter, representing the state, said it was not the first time but should be the last time the state defends the way appeals judges are elected, known formally as the Tennessee Plan.
Kleinfelter pointed out that the system has twice held up on appeal, and that other state supreme courts, such as Georgia’s, have concluded that appointing appeals judges is constitutional.
“This judicial system is entitled to finality,” Kleinfelter said.
News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
The Judicial Nominating Commission met on June 27 in Chattanooga, June 28, 2013 in Nashville, and June 29 in Jackson to hold public hearings and conduct interviews of candidates for the upcoming Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals and Court of Appeals vacancies.
After interviewing a total of 35 candidates for the three positions, the commission selected these attorneys for nomination to Governor Bill Haslam for consideration in the following openings. Two panels were forwarded for each vacancy because the governor has the option to reject the first panel and the Judicial Nominating Commission, which by law ceases to exist after June 30, 2013 would not be able to act and select a second panel.
The openings are created by the announcements by Judge Joseph Tipton, Judge Patricia Cottrell and Judge Alan E. Highers that they will not seek retention in the August 2014 election.
The list of nominees is below.
The Tennessee Judicial Nominating Commission on Thursday selected nominees to submit to Gov. Bill Haslam for a position on the Eastern Section of the Court of Criminal Appeals, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
Solemnly arrayed in the Sheraton Read House Terrace Room, 15 applicants made statements before a panel of 15 nominating commission members, who then interviewed each candidate in turn.
Traditionally, the commission submits only one panel of three names for the governor to review. If he rejects those three applicants, members vote on a second panel of names. However, the commission will cease to exist at midnight Sunday when the legislative provisions creating it expire.
“It’s different from what we’ve done historically because the commission sunsets at the end of the month,” said J. Bartlett Quinn, a Chattanooga attorney and commission secretary.
To ensure the commission fulfills its function one last time, the commissioners submitted a second panel of names in the event that Haslam rejects the first three.
The two lists: Panel A
• Boyd Patterson, assistant district attorney in Chattanooga
• Robert Montgomery, a criminal court judge in the 2nd Judicial District, from Blountville, Tenn.
• Thomas Wright, a circuit court judge in the 3rd Judicial District in Greeneville, Tenn. Panel B
• William Jackson Brown, a Cleveland attorney
• Charles Edward Atchely Jr., a Knoxville attorney
• Samuel Lee, an attorney in Clinton, Tenn.
News release from Vanderbilt University:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The end of the state Judicial Nominating Commission will not cause any hitches in the nomination of judges in Tennessee including a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder, said a Vanderbilt Law School professor.
The state legislature is shutting down the commission June 30, and voters will not vote on the amendment outlining the new procedure to pick judges until next year.
Holder plans to retire Aug. 31, 2014. The Judicial Nominating Commission has been involved in presenting nominees to the governor for Supreme Court and appeals court vacancies.
“In my view, Tennessee law has been amended over the years to permit for the selection of appellate judges and interim trial judges to continue uninterrupted and with only minor changes from the status quo when the commission expires,” writes Brian T. Fitzpatrick, professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School, in a paper for The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, Sunsetting the Tennessee Judicial Nominating Commission: What Now?
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.
News release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’:
Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today announced the appointment of Charles Tuggle of Memphis to the Judicial Nominating Commission. Tuggle will fill the vacancy left by the death of commission member Elizabeth Collins.
“Identifying individuals capable of rendering prudent decisions in agreement with our laws as written is important work,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “Charles Tuggle is an accomplished attorney and executive as well as a veteran of our armed forces. I trust that he will work well with the current members of the commission to ensure Tennessee has the best possible judiciary.”
“I appreciate Lt. Governor Ramsey giving me the opportunity to serve,” said Tuggle. “I look forward to serving my state in this capacity.”
Mr. Tuggle is currently executive vice president and general counsel for First Horizon National Corp. Tuggle practiced law for 30 years with the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz before joining the FTN Financial division of First Tennessee Bank as chief risk officer in 2003.
Tuggle earned a bachelor of arts degree from Rhodes College and his Juris Doctorate from Emory University. Tuggle is a graduate of the Georgia State University ROTC program and served as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.
The Judicial Nominating Commission was created in 2009 when Lt. Governor Ramsey reformed the process for selecting Tennessee’s appellate judges to provide more transparency and accountability in the judiciary. The commission has 17 members and is responsible for making judicial nominations to state appellate courts and the state Supreme Court when vacancies arise.
— Note: The commission will cease to exist on June 30, but plans to select nominees for three appellate court positions before then. Previous post HERE.
News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – Three judges, one magistrate and 21 attorneys have applied to fill anticipated 2014 vacancies on the Tennessee Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals.
The openings are the result of announcements by Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Cottrell and Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Joseph Tipton that they will not seek re-election in August 2014, creating vacancies effective Sept. 1, 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 Thursday, June 27 in Chattanooga to interview and hear public comments regarding the 15 applicants who have applied to fill the vacancy on the Court of Criminal Appeals Eastern Division.
The Judicial Nominating Commission will meet Friday, June 28 in Nashville to interview and hear public comments regarding the 10 applicants who have applied to fill the vacancy on the Court of Appeals Middle Division.
(The panel is still accepting applications for a third 2014 vacancy — the seat now held by West Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Alan Highers.) Note: List of the applicants is below.
NASHVILLE – John Jay Hooker has filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking the appointment of successors to three appeals court judges who plan to retire Aug. 31, 2014, contending move will wrongfully deny voters the right to make choices in the Aug. 7, 2014, election.
“They have created a situation so there will be no election for their seats,” said Hooker, 82, a lawyer and past candidate for multiple political offices who has waged a series of legal battles against the state’s judicial selection system. “The state Constitution requires that there be an election… They are unconstitutionally calling off an election.”
The state’s Judicial Nominating Commission, which will cease to exist at the end of this month, has announced plans to select nominees to fill the three appeal court seats before then and send them to Gov. Bill Haslam.
Those announcing plans to retire effective Aug. 31, 2014, are 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. The commission plans hearings June 27, 28 and 29 to select nominees.
Haslam intends to accept the nominations and make the appointments after “an appropriate amount of time” to review the nominees and make a decision, according to a gubernatorial spokesman.
Hooker’s lawsuit, filed in Davidson County Circuit Court, names Haslam, Tom Lawless, chairman of the Judicial Nominating Commission, and state Attorney General Bob Cooper as defendants. The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the commission submitting nominees and the governor acting on them.
Hooker said proceedings in the case will be before Circuit Court Judge Hamilton Gayden, who also presided over a separate recent Hooker lawsuit – one of several filed over the years – that challenged to system for selecting judges of the state Supreme Court and appeals courts.
Gayden ruled against Hooker on most points in that lawsuit, but found he was correct in one assertion – that the Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals judges should be assigned districts for election rather than be elected in a statewide vote.
A specially appointed state Supreme Court will hear arguments July 19 on that case. The state’s sitting Supreme Court justices all recused themselves from hearing the case.
No hearing has been scheduled yet in the new Hooker lawsuit. A spokeswoman for Cooper said the attorney general’s office had not served with a copy of the lawsuit Wednesday and would have no comment.
– Note: Hooker filed a copy of this story, which appeared earlier in the News Sentinel and this blog, as an exhibit in his new lawsuit.
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.
The University of Tennessee has fired the director of the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and hired a local lawyer to investigate whether she had improper relationships with student-athletes, reports the News Sentinel.
Jenny Wright, an office employee since 2008, tried to step down from her position Thursday, but UT refused to accept her resignation. Instead, Provost Susan Martin sent Wright a pre-termination letter Friday.
“Based on information we have received to date, and based on your refusal to cooperate in an investigation into allegations regarding your actions, the university has reason to believe that grounds exist to terminate your employment for unsatisfactory work-related behavior,” Martin wrote in an email Friday.
Wright was given the chance to meet Monday to discuss her status, but she did not show up, documents show. Martin sent another letter Monday informing Wright that she was fired.
The university began looking into accusations of improper behavior before hiring Beecher Bartlett,a Knoxville attorney with a background in employment cases, last week.
UT declined to release any documents related to the probe while it’s ongoing. Bartlett also declined to give any details about the accusations, how many students may be involved and how the officials first learned of the alleged behavior.