published Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Tennessee's Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Tennessee obviously is a very important part of our state government and our system of justice.

We, the voters of Tennessee, directly elect our Tennessee governors. We also directly elect our members of Tennessee's legislative body, the General Assembly. But there have been questions about how we should choose our Tennessee Supreme Court judges.

Tennessee's Constitution says clearly: "The Supreme Court shall consist of five judges, of whom not more than two shall reside in any one of the grand divisions of the State" -- those being East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee.

The Constitution says the judges "shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state."

Now a proposal is before the Tennessee Legislature to adopt a "federal-style" system for choosing Tennessee Supreme Court judges by having the governor nominate judicial candidates, then giving our legislators, who are elected by the people, the power to confirm or reject them.

Obviously, we want our highest judges to be legally and morally qualified, and to have excellent legal knowledge and good judgment, which voters in general ordinarily might have difficulty judging.

There are differing opinions about the best method of Tennessee Supreme Court member selections. So the Legislature is considering a plan to copy the federal government system, which provides for the chief executive to nominate state high court judges, with the legislators, who are elected by the people, then having the responsibility to approve or reject the judicial nominees.

The subject is still under debate, but that seems to be a reasonable, responsible way to seek qualified individuals, with our elected officials making the final determinations.

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