NASHVILLE - Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said today that now is the time to carry out Tennessee's first judicial redistricting process in nearly 30 years.
Ramsey, whose staff has been working on a plan since last fall, said he nonetheless is now seeking input from judges, district attorney generals, public defenders and the general public.
Tennessee now has 31 judicial districts from which the office holders are elected and serve. The state's last judicial redistricting occurred in 1984.
Ramsey said his legal staff first pointed out last summer that it had been years since districts were last drawn.
In looking at what happened in 1984, Ramsey told reporters, "it became quite obvious that it was not drawn based on anything but politics at that time. So what we're trying to do is make sure we have a plan that is more efficient, that uses our state resources more wisely and is productive."
For example, Ramsey said, in 1984, Tennessee's five largest counties, including Hamilton, were single judicial districts because they had populations of 100,000 people or more. Yet Coffee County, which had far less population, also got its own judicial district instead of the multi-county districts in most areas of the state, he said.
Today, Ramsey said, many one-time rural counties are now fast-growing suburbs. One-time suburbs have exploded and have crime problems.
In all, 12 counties, including Hamilton, have populations of more than 100,000. Each should have its own judicial district, Ramsey said.
Ramsey acknowledged a number of judges aren't happy about his push to redraw districts.