published Friday, August 1st, 2014

Reject the politics; retain justices

Since 1978, Tennesseans have gone back and forth in electing governors for two consecutive terms from first the Republican and then the Democrat parties. Whoever is governor when there is a state Supreme Court justice opening appoints the new justice. It's the same way for the president of the United States and a United States Supreme Court justice.

If the governor, or the president, is a Republican, he appoints more conservative justices. If the governor, or the president, is a Democrat, she appoints more liberal judges. Although the Founding Fathers probably couldn't foresee today's hyper-partisanship, it's the system they set up.

Today, Tennessee state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and several hyper-conservative groups would like all that to change. For all intents and purposes, they'd like a court which, as Ramsey said in an interview, "thinks like me."

The problem with Supreme Court justices is, even if they're appointed by a president (or governor) of the same party, they don't always think like the president or governor who appoints them.

Take the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, for instance. Of the seven justices who voted that a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th amendment extended to a woman's decision to have an abortion, five were appointed by Republicans.

Or, in the more recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the court ruled the Affordable Care Act is constitutional because it could be considered a tax, of the five justices who voted in the affirmative, the deciding vote was cast by Republican-appointed Chief Justice John Roberts.

The justices are like Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates: You never know what you are going to get.

So voting not to retain a triumvirate of justices (Connie Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade), all appointed by former Democrat Gov. Phil Bredesen, because of their ruling in a specific case and because of the dislike of decisions made by justices-appointed state Attorney General Robert E. Cooper seems narrow-minded indeed.

We don't believe any one decision, or the appointment of Cooper, add up to overwhelming evidence the justices do not need to be retained. We endorse retaining them.

Besides, Cooper's term is up Aug. 31, the three justices are 60 or older, and a referendum will be before voters in November that would give state legislators -- including Ramsey -- the right to reject a governor's choice for Supreme Court justice or appellate court judge if they don't find the choice palatable.

It's interesting to note that Ramsey's first campaign foray toward replacing the justices earlier this year was made because they were supposedly "soft on crime." One particular 2011 decision was cited in which the court vacated a death sentence for a convicted murderer, but a life prison sentence eventually was given.

That tact eventually gave way to the latest ones, paid for by various groups, in which the justices vaguely are said to be "supporting a liberal agenda that doesn't reflect the will of Tennesseans," that "trial lawyers are trying to pack the Tennessee Supreme Court with liberal justices" and that the court doesn't "fight Obamacare."

None of the reasons even hold water. No specific "liberal agenda" is ever alleged, it would be hard for trial lawyers to pack the court when the governor is a conservative Republican and the court has never heard a case or ruled on Obamacare.

Again, one of their main targets is Cooper, who was not persuaded to add Tennessee to the 28 states that chose to fight the Affordable Care Act in court. The attorney general himself has said he made a "conservative" decision not to spend taxpayer dollars on the fight during difficult economic times for the state.

Only once in Tennessee history was a Supreme Court justice sent packing from her post in a retain/don't retain vote. That was in 1996, when Justice Penny White was ousted.

As a recent appointee, she was the only justice up for a retention vote that year, and her one death penalty case on the court proved to be her undoing. She had been one of three ayes in a 3-2 vote to overturn the death penalty -- though the conviction remained -- in a case where a woman was raped and murdered, saying the sentence did not meet the law's specific requirements for the ultimate penalty. She later said had the death sentence been "imposed in accordance with the law," she would have voted for it.

The campaign against Justices Clark, Wade and Lee, who have upheld 90 percent of death penalty cases, is almost entirely politically driven. Reject the politics; retain the justices.

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ChattanoogaVol said...

Good grief. This is just getting ridiculous. Again, I ask you CTFP: Why keep up this charade of two separate editorial pages? The right side now just repeats what the left side says. This is yet another example. Stop the charade. Just stop.

August 1, 2014 at 8:46 a.m.
timbo said...

Tweedle dumb and tweedle dumber agree again. Sohn and Cooper, like peas and carrots, on the same page.

Gerger, get rid of one of these clowns and save some money.


August 1, 2014 at 9:06 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Bless his heart, Clint Cooper, TFP (right side of the paper) thinks he is a conservative or Republican. He is a solid Dem right with Pam Sohn, and does not know it. However, Pam is a solid Dem writer.

While Clint fancies himself a conservative, his principles are not.

Oh heck, why tell him any different.

August 1, 2014 at 11 a.m.
GaussianInteger said...

Who are you three, the Conservative Police? Two of you endorse an establishment Republican for Congress. There is nothing liberal about how these justices have ruled, unless you listen to the B.S. from AFP.

August 1, 2014 at 2:44 p.m.
aae1049 said...

hehe Laughing, Why yes we are the conservative po po.

August 1, 2014 at 2:57 p.m.
timbo said...

Gaussianinterger....Does every one of your blurbs have to be about Chuckie and little Wamp. Chuckie and Wamp are the establishment candidates. They represent the two main competing entities in the local Republican party. Chuckie is the Decosimo, Haslam, Corker side and little Wamp is his daddy's disappointed Coker, Wamp, Brock and Robin Smith side.

They ALL are establishment.

I think, just like Gov. Bredesen thought, that to the winner's go the spoils. The democrats were the ruling party and put democrat judges in that position. Now the Republicans control the state. They should have their people in place.

The reason the TN constitution doesn't give these guys lifetime appointment is for that very reason. When the state changes the judiciary should reflect the ruling philosophy.

Democrats did it when they won and Republicans want to do it because they have won. Why don't you get that?

Also, the point here is that these two village idiots, Sohn and Cooper are cooperating and putting out the same editorial every day. This is not right that 60% of the Hamilton County population is right wing and we have two left wing columnists.

August 1, 2014 at 3:08 p.m.
GaussianInteger said...

"The democrats were the ruling party and put democrat judges in that position. Now the Republicans control the state. They should have their people in place."

Would it not be more beneficial for guys/gals like you and I (and April) for their to be a general election for these judges? Instead of allowing McCormick to hand pick who he wants to appoint? I mean, not all of us believe in taking TN back to the 1800's. Besides, what decisions have these judges made, that earns them that evil branding, "Liberal"? And if this passes, what's next? No "liberals" can work for the state? A law that makes being a "Democrat" illegal in TN? Where does it stop for you guys?

August 1, 2014 at 3:28 p.m.
GaussianInteger said...

"Chuckie is the Decosimo, Haslam, Corker side and little Wamp is his daddy's disappointed Coker, Wamp, Brock and Robin Smith side."

And watch what you say about Robin Smith. April gets easily offended. Robin once said a prayer for April during a time of crisis. Of course, that loyal April, is a big Chuck supporter.

August 1, 2014 at 3:30 p.m.
timbo said...

Gaussianinterger.....I say again, "To the winners go the spoils" If democrats won they would do the same thing. To say that political and personal philosophy doesn't play a role in a judges decisions would be to say it doesn't matter on the Supreme Court. It means everything. The other side always whines about fairness when they are on the receiving end of the other party. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder.

No one said they were evil.

As far a Robin goes, no one could make it too the Chairmen of their state party being Rebecca of Sunnybrook farm. Robin is a sneak and still bitter about loosing to Chuckie.

That is one of the few things April and I disagree on.

August 1, 2014 at 4:16 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Gauss, you are so funny. I adore Robin, but doesn't mean I do what Robin does. You are on a Dim roll today. :-)

August 1, 2014 at 6:48 p.m.
GaussianInteger said...

Well, and Rhonda Thurman. I don't think April is a big fan.

August 1, 2014 at 8:25 p.m.
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