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.
By Travis Lollar, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal appeals court on Friday ordered a lower court to reconsider whether Tennessee law makes it too difficult for third parties to get on the ballot.
In February, U.S. District Judge William Haynes Jr. struck down state rules requiring third-party candidates for high-level offices to be selected through a primary. He also struck down a requirement that the parties and candidates collect about 40,000 signatures and turn them in seven months before the election.
After that decision, the General Assembly changed the law to make it easier on third parties.
Under the new rules, minor political parties can still use the primary process. They also have the option of selecting nominees in accordance with their own internal rules.
If they chose to do the latter, the parties still have to collect signatures, but they don’t have to turn them in until 90 days before the election. The individual candidates don’t have to collect signatures.
The three-judge panel for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling from Cincinnati, sent the case back to the lower court to re-evaluate the rules in light of the recent changes. The court also overturned the lower court’s determination that a prohibition on the words “independent” and “nonpartisan” in party names was unconstitutional.
Virginia Abernathy, an 80-year-old retired Vanderbilt professor, is the focus of a Tennessean story on her role as “an emerging leader of the white supremacist movement.”
Abernethy appears on the Tennessee ballot as running mate to Gatlinburg-area filmmaker Merlin Miller, who is running for president of the United States. They are listed as independent candidates on the Tennesee ballot, but represent the American Third Position Party, or A3P.. The whites-only political party was formed “to represent the interests of White Americans,” according to its website. It has run a handful of candidates for offices as varied as the Mesa, Ariz., City Council and the New Hampshire governor’s office. Republicans in New Hampshire called A3P the party of “despicable racists.”
Abernethy calls all the attention misguided but amusing.
“I think it’s hilarious,” said Abernethy, speaking from the corner office on the Vanderbilt campus that is hers for life as a professor emerita of anthropology and psychiatry. “I’m 104 pounds exactly. I’m punching above my weight, to hear the SPLC tell it.”
She politely would like to set the record straight.
She is not a white supremacist, Abernethy said.
She’s an environmentalist and a scientist. She opposes most immigration. She’s a feminist who helped put an end to Vanderbilt professors calling female medical students “girls.” She’s a Christian and a European-American.
She is also, she said, an “ethnic separatist.”
“Separatism says, ‘Birds of a feather flock together,'” Abernethy said. “I say, ‘Let them.’ What I see is rampant racial discrimination against European-Americans. And I am not in favor of discrimination.
“I see African-American groups and Asian-American groups and I feel that we should respect our identity as European-Americans as well.
“I do not see anything whatever wrong with that.”
By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge has ruled that the state may not enforce several rules that minor political parties claim are roadblocks to their candidates getting elected.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge William Haynes Jr. refused to stay his earlier decision requiring the state to hold a random drawing to determine which candidate’s name goes first on the November general election ballot.
The ruling is part of lawsuit jointly filed against the state by the Green Party and Constitution Party, which claim that the state has imposed unconstitutional hurdles to third parties running for election in Tennessee.
“The candidate with the number one listing has a 5 percent electoral advantage because people who aren’t familiar with any of the names just pick the top one,” said Alan Woodruff, a Johnson City attorney who is representing the Constitution and Green parties.
State law currently says that a Republican will be listed first because that is the majority party in the General Assembly, Woodruff said. The law says that a candidate running as a Democrat will be listed second because it is the party in the minority in the state legislature, he said.
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.)
U.S. District Judge William J. Haynes Jr. openly bristled Monday at a deputy attorney general’s attempts to defend restrictions on ballot access for small political parties in Tennessee, reports The Tennessean.
He threw out the restrictions less than 16 months ago and the Legislature responded by amending the law to lessen the restrictions. But third parties still have more hurdles to clear than Democrats or Republicans and the new, revised law is now before Haynes for another court challenge While his annoyance was clear, Haynes did not rule on the Green and Constitution parties’ request for summary judgment in their favor after 90 minutes of oral arguments, choosing instead to take the matter under advisement. The alternative political parties sued the state in July and argue that state laws make it unconstitutionally hard for third parties to get their names on the ballot in Tennessee.
….Alan P. Woodruff, a Johnson City attorney and Democratic congressional candidate representing the third parties, told the judge that his clients have basically been denied ballot access by a requirement thehy collect more than 40,000 signatures in April to have party identity of a candidate listed on the statewide ballot. He estimated that collecting the signatures would cost $120,000.
….Haynes asked some questions but mostly listened quietly as Woodruff laid out his case. His mood changed drastically when Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter went to the podium, and he chastised the state for making arguments in defense of the new state laws that it had not presented in the previous case.
“I wish I didn’t read your brief,” Haynes said. “I’m wasting my time.”
Moving past the technical issues, Haynes noted that higher court rulings suggest the state’s deadline is unconstitutionally early, and he pressed the state to explain why it needs so much time.
“It’s a lot more complicated than it looks on paper,” responded Kleinfelter, who noted the long list of administrative tasks state and local election officials must complete and the legal requirements they must follow.
Tennessee Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins attended Monday’s hearing.
“At the end of the day, we have to comply with the MOVE Act,” he said afterward, noting that another minor party, Americans Elect, is on track to comply with state requirements. “If that deadline changes, we’re going to have a hard time doing that.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would make it easier for more political parties to be placed on the ballot in Tennessee is headed to the governor for his consideration after passing the Senate on Monday.
The measure sponsored by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville (HB794) was approved 24-9. The House unanimously approved the companion bill 92-0 last month.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to review the measure but hasn’t said if he’ll sign it. (Prediction: He will.)
Current law requires a minor party to gain the signatures equivalent to 2.5 percent — or about 40,000 — of the total number of those voting in the most recent race for governor, and it requires those signing the petition to declare their party membership.
The proposal changes that so any voter may sign the petition, regardless of association with the minor party.
The bill also gives a minor party an additional 30 days to return its petition to the state’s election coordinator for its slate of candidates to be placed on the ballot.