Lawyers fight conservative effort to oust Tennessee justices

Lawyers fight conservative effort to oust Tennessee justices

May 29th, 2014 by Associated Press in Local - Breaking News

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - Lawyers are fighting back against an effort by conservatives to oust three sitting justices on the state's highest court.

Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville has been circulating a document that takes aim at Supreme Court Justices Cornelia Clark, Gary Wade and Sharon Lee. All three were appointed by former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, and all three are up for election on Aug. 7.

The Tennessean reports that the Nashville Bar Association sent a resolution to members this week urging them to vote to keep the justices. In addition, the Tennessee Bar Association is asking members for the first time to rate the competency of the justices in a poll, and it plans to release the results in June.

Those efforts follow a May 14 event at which some prominent Nashville attorneys raised $100,000 for the three.

A group of attorneys, including former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Drowota, spoke to the newspaper about their efforts to retain the justices.

Drowota said Ramsey has unfairly criticized the justices in an effort to put partisan judges on the panel.

"To have politics come into the courts makes absolutely no sense," Drowota said. "You don't want a politicized court. You want a fair, impartial court."

In response, Ramsey's communications director Adam Kleinheider said, "It is not surprising that a group of Nashville lawyers with a vested interest in protecting a liberal Supreme Court are getting engaged in this process. Lt. Governor Ramsey looks forward to having all sides present their case on these retention elections and letting the people decide."