In 2014, a change was made to the Tennessee Constitutional at the behest of the Tennessee judiciary that removed this language: “The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.” Our state constitution was rewritten to say: “Judges of the Supreme Court or any intermediate appellate court shall be appointed … by and at the direction of the Governor.”
Proponents of the change, like Democrat Phil Bredesen said, “contested elections for the judiciary would allow special and financial interests to become involved.”
However, the constitutional change was driven by money and special interests like Tennessee Business Partnership, a “non- profit” formed January 1, 2014 and now nonexistent. This PAC alone provided $425,000 for an aggressive media campaign including television advertising and billboards.
This mysterious PAC, which is now nowhere to be found, was housed at 511 Union Street, the very same building where you will find the law firm, Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis, that contributed $75,000 to the campaign. The Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) is in the same building. The AOC is the administrative office for the state court system and the Board of Judicial Conduct.
The proponents of the constitutional change included three more major law firms in Nashville: Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz ($50,000), Butler Snow ($50,000), and Neal & Harwell ($20,000). Each of these firms has a substantial government relations arm which provides for lobbying directly, as well as representing firms contracting with the government. And just so you know, Waller is also on the taxpayers’ payroll receiving payments through the Attorney General’s office every year; $123,000 for 2022. Also dipping into the taxpayer coffers, Baker Donelson received over $50,000 from the State budget; and Neal & Harwell $50,000.
It is not a far stretch to assume that these firms expect to have some influence over judicial selections as a result of their support. They are the “Special Interests” Bredesen warned us about, giving them undue and permanent influence over the peoples’ business.
The effect of this constitutional change slipped by many Tennesseans in 2014, because the focus of debate was Amendment 1 to ban abortions. Whether by happenstance or by design, we bargained away our right to vote, the most precious possession we have in this country.
The same paragraph of our constitution reads: “His term of service shall be eight years.” To allow a “retention” vote makes the “term of service” meaningless. As Americans, we must support a constitutional government and our precious right to select our leaders. Now the “selection” of judges by the executive branch impinges on the separation of powers doctrine which is distinctly different from the original constitutional intent.
On the August 3rd ballot five Supreme Court Justices, and 24 Appellate Court Judge are running for retention. You have two choices: retain or replace. Replace them all.
Submitted by Connie Reguli
A very interesting article BUT where is the CONSERVATIVE non-profit organization to track judges decisions and recommend either Retention or Replacement??
I can find almost no help on determining which judges should be Retained !
You seem to be partially blaming Bredeson. However, the appointment system works well at the Federal level. Nothing is perfect, but this system seems OK, except when the Gov isn’t with the favored party.
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