Chattanooga: Lawyer praises Tennessee judge selection process

Chattanooga: Lawyer praises Tennessee judge selection process

August 20th, 2009 by Monica Mercer in Local Regional News

The immediate past president of the American Bar Association and a lawyer who has practiced in Alabama his entire career said the Alabama legal community looks with "envy" at Tennessee's often-contested plan for the merit selection of appellate judges.

H. Thomas Wells, Jr. fielded questions from the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial boards Thursday morning, talking about such issues as the elections of judges, the biggest challenges currently facing the legal profession and how more poor people across the nation can get access to legal help.

"I will tell you from a personal standpoint that those of us in Alabama who have partisan elections of judges look at Tennessee with a great deal of envy with how you select your Supreme Court judges through a merit selection plan. I certainly hope you don't do away with it," Mr. Wells said.

Alabama has long employed a system of electing judges to sit on its state appellate courts, but Mr. Wells said that "merit selection is much preferable to election."

He said the American Bar Association endorses the "Tennessee Plan" for the merit selection of appellate judges, although detractors say the plan is a violation of the state constitution, which technically calls for the election of appellate judges.

The Tennessee Legislature earlier this year reinstated the plan amid controversy.

See tomorrow's Times Free Press for complete details.