Move to change Tennessee judge selection process clears first hurdle

Move to change Tennessee judge selection process clears first hurdle

April 26th, 2012 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

The Tennessee Capitol in Nashville, Tenn.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - A proposal to change how Tennessee Supreme Court justices and other appellate judges are selected and elected completed the first step of its three-leg journey today.

The House approved Senate Joint Resolution 710 on a 70-27 vote, sending the proposed amendment to the state Constitution to the 108th General Assembly, which will be elected in November.

The measure previously passed the Senate.

If approved by a two-thirds votes of Senate and House members in 2013 or 2014, the proposed amendment would go on the 2014 ballot, where it would have to gain approval by a majority of voters participating in the gubernatorial election.

The proposal is a response to critics who say the current selection and retention process for appellate judges is unconstitutional because there are no competitive elections, although it has been upheld by a special Supreme Court.

Currently, a special screening panel recommends three potential nominees for vacancies to the governor who then appoints one. The judges come up at the next election, where voters decided to retain or oust them, and then for retention elections every eight years.

SJR 710 would implement a federal-style system in which the governor would nominate and the General Assembly would have to confirm nominees to the five-member Supreme Court and the 12-member Court of Appeals and 12-member Court of Criminal Appeals.

The appellate judges would then be subject to yes/no retention elections.