Tennessee Supreme Court picks Skrmetti as attorney general

Row of columns in black and white court tile warrant justice judicial executive legislation tile building / Getty Images
Row of columns in black and white court tile warrant justice judicial executive legislation tile building / Getty Images

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Supreme Court on Wednesday announced that Jonathan Skrmetti has been selected to be the state's next attorney general.

Skrmetti replaces Attorney General Herbert Slatery, a Republican who announced in May that he wouldn't seek another eight-year term. Skrmetti currently serves as Republican Gov. Bill Lee's top legal counsel and previously worked as the attorney general's chief deputy from 2018 to late 2021.

"Mr. Skrmetti has dedicated the majority of his career to public service and has the breadth of experience and vision necessary to lead the attorney general's office for the next eight years," Chief Justice Roger A. Page said in a statement.

Four out of the five justices - who were all appointed by Republicans - approved Skrmetti's selection. Justice Sharon Lee, who was appointed by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, dissented without offering an explanation.

Tennessee is the only state in the U.S. where its Supreme Court appoints the attorney general. Skrmetti's term starts on Sept. 1.

"I look forward to working with the dedicated public servants at the Attorney General's office to represent all three branches of Tennessee's government," Skrmetti said in a statement.

Six candidates had applied to replace Slatery. The others were former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee Michael Dunavant; former U.S. attorney in the Middle District of Tennessee Don Cochran; administrative law judge Jerome Cochran; Knoxville attorney Culver Schmid; and Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance Executive Director Bill Young.

The Supreme Court justices held interviews Monday and Tuesday before making a decision Wednesday.

Skrmetti is a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization that has championed judges appointed by former President Donald Trump. He graduated from Harvard Law School, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.

He spent five years as an honors program trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division/Criminal Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. He also served as a law clerk for U.S. Judge Steven M. Colloton of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.